In November, 1977 Punk music was prevalent and had become subject of tabloid press attention – things were moving fast. The Ramones, it could be said just carried on doing what they were doing anyway. There’s little doubt that this band were responsible for a lot of the other bands surfacing.
By the time Rocket To Russia was released the Ramones had a less abrasive sound than the Sex Pistols, The Damned, the Clash, etc. Coupled with the geographical distance they continued to deliver their bubblegum punk / pop sound almost in a musical world of their very own. Whereas, for example Music For Pleasure (The Damned) is a mark of its time, Rocket To Russia has a timeless quality to it. If anything – it sounds better as the years pass.
The unspoken blueprint of no song penetrating the 3 minute mark continued. The first three Ramones albums do not contain a single song that is longer than 2 minutes & 50 seconds. Rocket To Russia is an album that needs no forwarding, shuffling or needle lifting. This is the mark of a Classic Album. Rocket To Russia is the last album to feature the original line up although it should be noted that the impending drummer shuffling did not initially change much anyway.
Cretin Hop, written about a vicar with the surname Cretin opens the album. The slightly lacklustre production of the bands 2nd album is glossed over and the sheen of Rocket To Russia sounds like Pop / Punk heaven.
Rockaway Beach and the album accelerates to a near perfect Ramones sound. Did I just type near? Okay, it’s just perfect.
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow and the Ramones do what they can do so well here. Pure charm. Innocence. Honesty. Simplicity. Slower than a standard Ramones sound and a song that will appeal to practically anybody. Soft and frankly beautiful refrain and as pure of a lost love song as you will ever hear. An overlooked classic.
Locket Love has a soft stampede sound. True that it’s the weakest song so far on the album but it’s leagues above what most bands could ever muster.
I Don’t Care and nihilism is done here miles better than the Sex Pistols without ever needing to sound frantic. Monotonous. Deadpan – and still utterly charming.
Sheena Is A Punk Rocker is a pop / punk gem that screams ‘hit single’ at you. The Ramones never sold anything like the volumes they should have. This song embodies the whole album in one easy to swallow pill.
We’re A Happy Family with its fittingly incestuous fake ‘Ramone’ brothers lyrics is pop lunacy and a sing-a-long for every beautiful freak on the face of this planet.
Teenage Lobotomy kicks open side two of Rocket To Russia with a Ramones riff to die for. The lyrics hit a higher level of barmy and the chant-a-long raises a bar that is almost impossible to raise any higher. Listening to it now I can practically see Dee Dee’s neck popping to this.
Do You Wanna Dance and, hey, if the Ramones can make a cover version the essential version then I’m all for it. A rattling – pogoing – sound of glory.
I Wanna Be Well and the deadpan returns. Although the music goes nowhere the song bustles with a sound of indifferent disdain like few other Ramones songs.
I Can’t Give You Anything is another lesser known Ramones song that stumbles into perfect pop territory. A fresh sound that knocks itself without realising just how majestic it really is. Joey stretches his vocal range without even realising ‘everythang’. Utterly charming.
Ramona with its subtle break downs chugs its way softly to yet more glory. The sound of the 60’s is dragged through the late 70’s with loving care. A winner.
Surfin’ Bird and a Garage classic is given the Ramones treatment. True that The Cramps version is a better take on The Trashmen’s original but hey, this is the freakin’ Ramones remember so no quibbles from me.
Why Is It Always This Way? closes Rocket To Russia and it is an album you do not want to end. It is possibly the weakest song on the album and sounds almost apologetic with its muted anthem.
The album, as strong as it is – is not the best album by the Ramones. It is up there, and should be in everybodys Top 3 Ramones albums at least. I figure, without the Punk explosion, this album would have sounded exactly the same. The Ramones were a one off – the likes of which we will never see / hear again…