The 10th studio album by the Ramones Halfway To Sanity is an LP I like way more than maybe I should.
It remains the only Ramones album I bought actually when it was released. Halfway To Sanity is much stronger than the preceding studio album Animal Boy. It just sounds like a complete album and has very clear, crisp production from Daniel Rey.
All of the songs are strong and despite being unmistakably Ramones songs somehow take on a fresh dimension. This is not the sound of a band going through the motions – but a band striving to make a great album – they pretty much succeed.
True that the bands better days are behind them but Halfway To Sanity is the bands last essential album. I can’t put my finger on it – but I love the album.
I Wanna Live (Dee Dee / Rey) starts with a brand new day guitar strain. It sounds like the sun rising. Before not long at all the sound solidifies into a triumphant, almost jolly bounce-along. Joey’s vocal booms like only he can. The track rises and ventures into pure pop territory. If anything the Ramones sound like Blondie – not necessarily a bad thing.
Bop ‘Til You Drop (Dee Dee / Johnny) sounds tougher. Punchy and sharp the track allows itself to chug. “No time to die, do the Cretin’ Hop, Bop ‘Til you drop”. Beautifully dumb and pure fun the Ramones are back.
Garden Of Serenity (Dee Dee / Rey) launches with a very 80’s alternative sound. The track has a looming sound that has all-encompassing qualities. As the track catches you like a pop punk net it does what few Ramones tracks do. Johhny lets loose burning guitar streaks, you almost anticipate a solo. A fantastic track, that again – I can’t put my finger on why it works so damn well. A scorcher.
Weasel Face (Dee Dee / Johnny) treads a more Too Tough To Die sound. It’s welcome at this point. Fast. Joey lowers the octave of his vocal, another gem.
Go Li’l Camara Go (Joey) zooms straight back into pop territory. Debbie Harry provides backing vocal (although you’d hardly know it). A sunny pop song that works very well indeed “Ooma Mow Mow Poppa Oo Mow Mow”.
I Know Better Now (Richie) has a no regrets attitude. Rare for Richie Ramone to write a song – but it fits perfectly, Halfway To Sanity is Halfway To Brillinace – we just never expected it.
Death Of Me (Joey) has a very strong intro musically. Sharp, clear. It settles very quickly to a controlled sound before rising to a near mournful vibe. With added hindsight the nature of the lyrics hit home hard how much this band are missed.
I Lost My Mind (Dee Dee / Johnny) goes back to the if it aint broke stance and sound of Dee Dee songs from Too Tough To Die. Fast. Dumb. (and needless to say fantastic).
A Real Cool Time (Joey) paints a very happy picture. Neither too fast, nor too slow again it’s a gem of a mid-paced Ramones track. Echoes of 60’s pop given an 80’s era Ramones make-over – and no worse for it.
I’m Not Jesus (Richie) the 2nd song on Halfway To Sanity by Richie, boy they let him loose on this album! Surprisingly near thrash, very fast, the snare gets a good bashing but the Ramones keep it in their own stable. A ridiculous chorus that really sould make you beam. In ways it’s quite an epic and it rattles through several gears and has a near prayer mumbled in the distance. Wow.
Bye Bye Baby (Joey) then only veers back to a very classic Ramones sound. You really think this must be a cover but no, it’s further proof of what a strong songwriter Joey Ramone was, can we get him back somehow?
Worm Man (Dee Dee) after the pop perfection of the preceding song reminds you the Ramones are not about one songwriter – but a whole band. The dumb streak raises its welcome head. Just as the album began with “I Wanna Live” it closes with the line “I Wish I Was Dead” and we’re reminded that 3 legends are not with us anyone more, and that music is a poorer place for it…