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Record Reviews

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Seriously: CD
Ralph Carney is a multi-instrumentalist who’s been associated with bands in what seems like damned near every corner of the new wave—B-52s, The Waitresses, They Might Be Giants, Talking Heads, Jonathan Richman, and the list goes on. As the band’s name and the title suggest, this is jazz, specifically along the lines of small-group, ragtime-derived early swing (hence the “jass” spelling, I’m guessing). The lion’s share of stuff here are run-throughs of standards (like “Echoes of Harlem,” “You Took Advantage of Me,” and “I Wish I Were Twins”), and they handily do them justice—solid musicianship, choice soloing, and a sense of respect not so bogged down with reverence that no room is left for some playful bounce. If traditional jazz is yer chosen poison, this’ll go down nicely. –Jimmy Alvarado (Smog Veil)

No Name Café: CD
I didn’t like this kind of stuff when it was put out by Johnny Cougar. Or John Cougar Mellencamp for that matter. –Megan Pants (Readyfireaim)

Talk Down the Sky: CD
Think “alternative rock’s answer to the Black Crowes” and then head for the hills. When they described themselves as “emo-billy,” I should’ve taken them at their word, ’cause this pretty much bites the weenie. –Jimmy Alvarado (ReadyFireAim)

Talk Down the Sky: CD
Adult contemporary country crossover, anyone? I need a Q-tip. My ears feel dirty. –Megan Pants (ReadyFireAim)

Avanti: CD

Twenty-four minutes of top-notch surf and spaghetti western instrumentals. Great soundtrack for your next Fistful of Dollars-themed shindig.

–Jimmy Alvarado (Mint)

Self-titled: 2 x LP
If you’re looking for a Gun Club record, you may be disappointed by Ramblin’ Jeffrey Lee. As Cypress Grove, Jeffrey’s collaborator on Ramblin’ Jeffrey Lee, points out in the liner notes—Ramblin’ Jeffrey Lee enters into vanity record territory. Instead of his usual blues-punk hybrid, Jeffrey performs straight blues interpretations on Ramblin’ Jeffrey Lee, covering songs by Howlin’ Wolf, Skip James, Charley Patton, and Don Nix (“Goin’ Down”). Jeffrey was at his musical peak when this album was recorded (1992), and his desire to do a blues record was a reflection of his reverence for the genre that gave him a career. If you’re a seasoned Gun Club fan, this reissue is an absolute must; Jeffrey’s version of “Go Tell the Mountain” is worth the price of admission alone. Bang! did a great job with the packaging (double LP gatefold).  –Ryan Leach (Bang!, bang-records.net)

Bring It!: LP
There’s a reason that Rambo’s huge in certain circles: like Propagandhi, Dillinger Four and Against Me!, they manage to convey an “us against them” kind of desperation in a manner that still remains inclusive, that allows you to feel that things are possible, and that makes you feel that this is a world that isn’t totally void of compassion or meaning. While Rambo sonically sounds nothing like the aforementioned bands, they all have (or had) that same inherent undercurrent of rage, that same ability to deal with overtly political issues in a way that’s still accessible to the listener. And the fact that this is some of the most tuneful, furious and intelligent hardcore to come rumbling down the avenue in some time doesn’t hurt either. Despite the lack of Mike Bukowski cover art, this record just kills from start to finish; songs like “That Lump in Your Throat” and “Kids Who Mosh Like Assholes Must Make Selfish Lovers” will hopefully be on mixtapes for years and years to come. Still, this literally has to be one of the ugliest LP covers I’ve seen in years. I’m not necessarily faulting the artist, just saying it was a poor idea for a cover, the end result being if I didn’t know who this band was, I wouldn’t pick this thing up in a hundred years. Both CD and LP versions come with a live DVD that highlights their ‘03 European tour, along with a bunch of additional material. If you’re wondering about the hype, it’s well founded. If you’re wondering why everyone’s talking about this band, there’s a reason. Seek it out, read the words, feel it, and wear the grooves out on the thing. –Keith Rosson (Havoc)

: Split 7"
Rambo: First track is a East Coast mosh fest that keeps the pit moving. The second and third tracks blasts off like a laser guided missile aimed at a strategic target, ready for destruction. Crucial Unit: More manic and intense than Rambo. The vocals are screamo and the beats fly by at lightning speed. You feel like you have to hold on for dear life. They definitely win the speed contest here. Both bands hail from Philadelphia. The theme of the split is bicycles. This was a great introduction to both of these bands for me.
–Donofthedead (Ed Walters)

Self-titled: 7” EP
Ding dong! Moo-pow-pow! As fun as Otis Day made the toga party in Animal House, Ramma Lamma takes ‘70s teen arena fun pop, unzips the listeners’ skull, scoops brains out like ice cream with sugary, sprinkles crunchy candy bits on top, and dances around like kids let of out of school for the summer. Think David Cassidymania dreaminess, prior to that London concert where a fourteen-year-old girl got stampeded to death at the gate; an event that haunted David until his death. No haunting here, just repeated listens! –Todd Taylor (Certified PR)

Self-titled: 7” EP
Four tracks of punky power pop, or poppy punker pop, whichever you prefer. They keep the tempos and styles eclectic, the hooks a-plenty, and there ain’t a Ramone clone within a mile of this, so you know this definitely worth a spin. –Jimmy Alvarado (Certified PR)

“Gimme Gimme Gimme Gimme” b/w “Rock’n’Roll Lady": 7”
…Ramma Lamma are my favorite Wisconsin band right now, although that could be a matter of damning them with faint praise at this juncture. They answer the age old ((okay, day old)) question of what it would be like if a less-annoying Suzi Quatro fronted a three-piece version of Slade and played Mud covers, or Cichlids covers, or something deep like that, as well as the question of what would happen if someone spelled “Rama Lama” with extra M’s. They continue their jaunty strut to bang-shang-a-lang-gri-la by creating that rarest of fowls, a Christmas 45 THAT DOESN’T SUCK. Unless you bothered listening closely to the lyrics, as so many young people do, you wouldn’t really know it was a Christmas 45, and that’s the kind of sugar cookies Santa likes. The A-side chorus of “Christmas time is a time for givin’, so give me everything you got / don’t bother givin’ me nothin’ baby, unless you’re gonna spend the night” manages to completely fit the whole “Christmas” bit into Ramma Lamma’s standard agenda of Rockin’, and…and Lovin’, and…and…Rockin’ some more, instead of the other way around—fitting the Rock Agenda into the Christmas paradigm—and that is exactly As It Should Be. The synth interlude is properly unexpected, and the real or imagined sleigh bells add a respectful dollop of surrendering without giving oneself away. The b-side is a little more heavy-handed in its Christmassyness, but they have the good sense to steal the riff to “Gudbuy T’Jane” so it’s all good. Throw in a sugarplum fairy or two and we’ll call it a deal! BEST SONG: “Gimme Gimme Gimme Gimme” BEST SONG TITLE: “Gimme Gimme Gimme Gimme” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: I recorded one Christmas song about twenty years ago, which was called “Gimme Stuff.” In light of recent events, i should have called it “Gimme Gimme Gimme Gimme Stuff.” –Rev. Norb (Certified PR)

Ice Cream: LP
Work sucks. The school I work at is having a real tough time. Seismologists told us that nearly half of the campus was built on a fault line. Now that portion of the school, which includes a dozen classrooms, is off-limits. On top of that, the after-school program’s budget got slashed to practically nil. As a result, I’ve been heading home partially deflated, embittered. Today, I slump into my chair and see Ramma Lamma’s Ice Creamon my desk. It beckons me with its garish, crude cover art, like an animation cell from The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat. I give it a spin and, god almighty, it’s just what I need. I’m talking pure id power pop, mining the brains most impulsive (repulsive?) regions, and kick-starting serotonin production. These are the type of songs that just might make you blush: “Baby I’m a monster, come from outer space. If the girls don’t like it they can sit on my face.” Ramma Lamma is therapeutic. They extinguish my frustrations with whip cream. After a handful of songs, I’m completely decompressed. This is the type of record that reminds you that there’s still stupid fun to be had in the world. –Sean Arenas (Certified PR, certifiedprrecords.com)

Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die: CD

I am really the wrong person to be reviewing this. I generally can’t stand metal. There are a few exceptions, but as a genre, I’m just not a fan. I won’t hold it against Ramming Speed that I hate them. Musically, they seem pretty tight, but it all sounds the same to me. I’ll be sure to pass this on to someone who will appreciate it.

–Ty Stranglehold (Prosthetic)

Split: LP
I feel like I’m reliving my teen years again with all the new thrash metal that is making the rounds, making me believe it’s the crossover period again. Ramming Speed start things off with a bombastic blast of thrash metal that gets close to death metal and grind territory at times. A vocal delivery that is throaty and shouted then guttural. Bright guitar tones with a heavy dose of rapid chords and hyperfast solos are combined with thundering bass and drums to bring a force of sound to their music. A.N.S. are equal contenders with their contribution to this release. Crossover in the vein of Excel meets Nuclear Assault. The soundtrack to a good skate sesh on the backyard halfpipe. A raw feel to the production gives them more of a punk edge. But the metal is brought with the heavy chugging of the guitar. I really appreciated hearing the mosh part in one of their songs. I saw the band a couple of years ago and came away with a good appreciation of their live show. It’s a great pairing of two current bands that gives me the itch to experience Ramming Speed live when they come to town. –Donofthedead (Tankcrimes)

Greatest Hits: CD
Twenty tracks of standard Ramones fare to introduce those (who have been living under a fucking rock) to quite possibly the world’s most perfect rock’n’roll band. The first eleven Ramones slabs are represented here (sans Halfway To Sanity) with songs that many a fan have pogoed to over the years, be it at all those wondrous Ramones gigs, or in the noisy privacy of their very own bedrooms/house parties. A great way to get your cool little nephew/niece off on the right foot, absolutely. But if you were a genuinely cool aunt or uncle, you’d buy ‘em the entire catalog, one b-day and Xmas gift at a time. –Designated Dale (Rhino: www.rhino.com)

Wierd Tales of the Ramones: Box Set
Around four years ago, Rhino Records did an awfully wonderful thing for us high priests belonging to the Cult of Ramones: they re-issued the first eight LPs in their re-mastered entirety on CD plus bonus tracks of cuts including different vocal versions, demo versions, and live versions. Some of these bonus tracks were also tunes that never made it onto the original LPs to begin with (the Subterranean Jungle non-LP cuts are fucking brilliant). Being par for the course with Rhino, the packaging and liner notes on these re-releases are top notch and I can’t recommend ‘em enough if you haven’t replaced your worn-out Ramones vinyl with these yet. They’d also be good gifts for your friends who just had their first newborns. Screw baby blankets and Johnny Jumpers. Put together an eight-disc set of “Baby’s First Ramones.” The kid will thank you later on in life if he/she grows up with any sense. Now, getting to this box—when I first heard about it, I was a bit skeptical being there’s been a few “greatest hits” Ramones releases over the past few years. But when I heard that a collaboration of comic artists were pitching in their talents for an included book with this and that Rhino was heading the deal, I was sold. Quote Homer J. Simpson: “Done and done!” The book is packed with artists’ Ramones offerings from whom a lotta fans will recognize right off the bat, like John Holmstrom (Punk magazine), whose artwork graced the Rocket to Russia and Road to Ruin LPs, not mentioning about a bazillion Ramones tour shirts. Other noted artists include Sergio Aragones (MAD Magazine), Matt Groening (Life In Hell, The Simpsons), Xaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets), Bill Griffith (Zippy The Pinhead) and a whole bunch more. I get the idea that this book was supposed to be primarily for comic book artists, but I personally would’ve like to seen Chris Cooper (Coop) included here. If I ain’t mistaken, he did the Ramones’ We’re Outta Here box art. He also draws one hell of an example of what a beautiful woman looks like. The first three discs include Ramones tuneage from the thirteen studio LPs plus cuts from the Acid Eaters cover album. The fourth disc, a DVD, includes the Lifestyles of the Ramones video collection of Ramones production videos plus five later videos the band produced in the ‘90s. Upon further examination of the liner notes, it seems Johnny Ramone compiled all the disc material for this before passing on last year, and it’s just a damn shame that he, Joey or Dee Dee aren’t here to see it. Seymour Stein, the man who once ran Sire Records and signed the Ramones said something awhile back that hit the nail right on the head. He said bands like the Ramones don’t come along once in a lifetime; they come along once. Life’s too short, my friends. PLAY LOUD. –Designated Dale (Rhino)

Leave Home: CD
The second Ramones LP re-release from Rhino, including the original track #5 cut, “Carbona Not Glue” that was recalled off the shelves in 1977 due to trademark infringements. Now it’s back, remastered, and blissfully louder than ever, with bonus cuts “Babysitter” (which was used to replace the re-called “Carbona” in the U.K.) and a sixteen-song set of vintage Ramones blowing minds on 8/12/76 at the Roxy in Hollywood. The booklet, like the rest of these, is an interesting introspective on the history of Leave Home, complete with pics. Give that worn-out vinyl version some rest and test the limits of your CD player with this one. Your disc player will thank you for it.

–Designated Dale (Rhino)

Rocket to Russia: CD
Rhino did a fine-ass job on this re-issue of the Ramones third LP – not only on the music itself, but recreating the inner sleeve of the original LP in the booklet here with all the cool John Holmstrom (one of the co-founders of the original Punk zine of NYC) artwork. Bonus tracks here include the U.K. 7” b-side version of “It’s a Long Way Back to Germany,” which was later recorded with new drummer Marky on the Road to Ruin LP, as well as an early version of “Needles & Pins.” Single versions of “I Don’t Care” and “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” are here, too, as well as the demo, “Slug,” which appeared earlier on the All The Stuff & More re-issues. Excellent job here. Need I tell you how much you want this? I thought not.
–Designated Dale (Rhino)

Road to Ruin: CD
This is the Ramones' fourth LP in Rhino’s series of re-introducing America’s band to a new generation, as well as making old fans smile even more. This shine, shine, SHINES. Yeah, fuck, I know – this is the LP that includes “I Wanna Be Sedated.” But it’s also the LP that houses “Go Mental,” “Bad Brain,” “I Don’t Want You,” “She’s the One,” “I Just Want to Have Something to Do,” and possibly one of the most perfect Ramones songs ever laid down on a studio reel, “I’m Against It.” This is also the LP that showed the world that the Ramones were capable of handling ballad-type-crooners, like the near-perfect “Questioningly” and their cover of “Needles & Pins.” Bonus cuts here include producer Ed Stasium-recorded versions of “I Want You Around” and “Rock ‘N Roll High School.” The live five-song medley from the film, “Rock ‘N Roll High School” is here, too, as well as an unreleased demo, “Come Back, She Cried A.K.A. I Walk Out” and the demo, “Yea, Yea” from the All The Stuff & More Volume 2 reissue. God DAMN, I love this record. Share the love, people, share the love.
–Designated Dale (Rhino)

End of the Century: CD
This is Rhino’s re-issue of the terribly underrated fifth Ramones LP, originally brought unto fans from one Phil Spector back in 1979. I defy anyone to listen to “This Ain’t Havana," “All The Way," “I Can’t Make It On Time," or “Let’s Go” and not feel the need to pogo. This is also the LP that brought such live-set staples like “Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio?” as well as “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School” and “Chinese Rock." The bonus cuts here are really happenin’ with demo versions of certain “Century” cuts, especially the bitchin’ version of “Danny Says." Also included is the unreleased “Please Don’t Leave” demo and the soundtrack version of “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School." Like crack, this record was always quite addictive, and now with this re-ish, I’m really hooked, and if you ain’t, that makes you a crack hooker. So there.
–Designated Dale (Rhino)

Pleasant Dreams: CD
The sixth Ramones LP, gloriously re-issued with an assload of demos to boot. Demo cuts include a 1981 version of “Touring” which was re-recorded for the 1992 LP, Mondo Bizarro and an alternate version of the Get Crazy soundtrack cut, “Chop Suey." There’s the demo version of “I Can’t Get You Outta My Mind," which was re-recorded for the 1989 Brain Drain LP later on. And then there’s the unreleased cuts: “Kicks to Try," “Sleeping Troubles," “Stares in This Town," and “I’m Not An answer." The disc tray even has the original LP cover artwork that was to be for the album. This is yet another classic Ramones slab that was easily overlooked. Just listen to “All’s Quiet on the Eastern Front," “You Didn’t Mean Anything to Me," or “She’s a Sensation," not to mention “We Want the Airwaves” and “The KKK Took My Baby Away." I’ll bet dollars to Homer Simpson’s donuts that the blood'll start pulsing rapidly through that jaded heart of yours. Play loud!
–Designated Dale (Rhino)

Self-titled: CD
I’m actually surprised that no one here at the ’Cake didn’t take a second or two to review any of the Ramones re-issues that Rhino put out. Since the last eighteen months or so, Rhino has re-packaged the first eight LPs of Ramones studio fury, and I’ve felt like Howard Stern at a girly-girl lesbian convention ever since. The first four CDs hit the shelves in 2001 and the next four discs in 2002. Being thee unconditional fan of the brothers Ramone, I’m gonna take some time here to tell all you sacrilegious simps who haven’t picked this up yet (or any of the others) just what you’re missing out on. Besides all fourteen songs of the original LP re-mastered and roaring out of the stereo, you get early demos of some of this LP’s cuts and a coupla unreleased tracks that were on the All The Stuff & More Volume One re-issue. Also included is an early demo of “You Should Never Have Opened That Door,” later on their second release, Leave Home, and the 7” version of “Blitzkrieg Bop,” which has a wonderful live essence to Joey’s vocal track. The booklet with the disc, as with all the booklets included with these Ramones re-issues, contain pics, history of the album’s creation, and complete lyrics. In this particular booklet, there are some pics that make it amazing to believe that the same Ramones’ debut that hit the world some twenty-seven years ago is still wowing new fans today. Fuckin’-A, it does. Rhino even took the paper tracking labels from the original vinyl records and screened them right onto all these re-issue CDs themselves. Too fucking cool. If this record isn’t already in the “R” section of your vinyl collection, Rhino is giving you a second lease on life to get one of the best reasons to listen to one of the best things to happen to rock'n'roll.
–Designated Dale (Rhino)

Subterranean Jungle: CD
It’s so fucking cool to see Rhino re-issue this, ‘cause when the Ramones originally released Jungle back in 1983, it ended up being their most lowest-selling LP to date, thus making it a bit collectible being that there were not a whole lot of copies to be re-pressed. Anyone who discounts this record is up to their tonsils in their own shit, ‘cause Jungle still holds its own to this day with Dee Dee’s “Time Bomb," “Highest Trails Above," “In the Park," “Outsider," and his collaboration with Johnny, “Psycho Therapy." It’s no one’s fault but the listeners that this LP isn’t considered one of their “favorites." I personally love each and every Ramones slab differently – but always unconditionally – because they consistently put out great albums. No, don’t argue – it's not an opinion. It’s a fact. Fuck you very much. The bonus cuts here on Jungle, by far, are some of the most rockin’ unreleased demos included with these Ramones re-issues, especially “Bumming Along," which could have easily been put on the original Jungle release. That song’s pure, unharnessed, locomotive-driven Ramones power, I’m telling ya. Other unreleased tracks are “New Girl in Town," “No One to Blame," “Roots of Hatred," and “Unhappy Girl." There’s also the original mix of “Indian Giver” and an acoustic version of the Jungle cut, “My-My Kind of Girl." If you don’t own this already, Rhino’s definitely throwing you a bone, so go grab it, or you can massage my bone, fucko.
–Designated Dale (Rhino)

Too Tough to Die: CD
With this eighth studio release, the Ramones came back to plant their flag in the asses of lame imitators, showing that they’ve always had a hard edge, and this LP has more than declared that to be true. With the Rhino re-issue of Too Tough, you don’t only get this reclamation of the Ramones roots, but a whole lotta bonus offerings like demo versions of a bunch of the LP’s cuts. Also included here are the Dee Dee vocal versions of “Planet Earth 1988," “Danger Zone," and “Too Tough to Die," which will want to make you start a pit on the freeway with your vehicle. And let me just add that the Dee Dee vocal versions add a new dimension to these songs, not that Joey wasn’t fucking key to begin with, ‘cause he always was. Some U.K. b-side singles “Smash You” and the Stones cover of “Street Fighting Man” are here, too, as well as the unreleased “Out of Here” and “I’m Not an Answer." Every time I throw Too Tough on the stereo it reminds me how the Ramones kicked off their live shows with “Durango 95” from this LP. Magic. Absolute fucking magic.
–Designated Dale (Rhino)

Acid Eaters: CD
A bit of a diversion, this is a collection of covers of psychedelic ‘60s tunes originally done by the Amboy Dukes, the Who, the Byrds, Love, The Jefferson Airplane and others. I remember not thinking all that much of this upon its initial release, but it sounds a lot more interesting upon hearing it again, and some of them, like “Somebody to Love” and “My Back Pages” are actually pretty rockin’. Also included is an outtake of them doin’ “Surfin’ Safari.” –Jimmy Alvarado (Captain Oi)

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