Essential New Music: The Ramones’ “Ramones: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition”

Ramones

The Ramones’ seismic debut finally gets the deluxe rock royalty reissue treatment, complete with two alternate mixes (a spruced-up stereo version and a needle-firmly-in-the-red, speaker-blowing mono mix), a book, countless demos and outtakes and a barnstorming live set. All of which are, of course, unnecessary fripperies, and let’s face it, what sentient human being with half a heart and brain doesn’t own a copy of one of the great debuts of all time? What this lavish reissue is, however, is a welcome reminder of the Ramones’ unparalleled reductive brilliance.

This, it should be remembered, is an album that exploded onto a bloated musical landscape clogged with the execrable aural stylings of the likes of Peter Frampton, the Doobie Brothers and fucking “Disco Duck.” Dark times, indeed, and here was a band that arrived fully formed to combat the excess and ennui of the mid-’70s. A walking, talking, gum-snapping pop-art explosion, an exercise in almost Stalinist revisionism and reductionism, a band that was as equally influenced by the Beach Boys and the Bay City Rollers as the Stooges and the MC5.

There’s not an ounce of flab on this record; 29 minutes flash by in a manic blur of buzzsaw guitars and bubblegum melodies. It’s stripped down, primordial and, let’s not forget, laugh-out-loud funny, a jackhammer to the synapses that still sounds fresh today. Ramones has become a template of sorts, a bible, punk’s very own 10 commandments, and while no one really needs all the bells and whistles, this reissue is a worthy testament to its gonzo genius and to a band that, despite the current ubiquity of its T-shirts and its tunes being used to sell everything from tacos to sunscreen, never truly got the respect it deserved.

—Neil Ferguson