The Ramones - Too Tough to Die (1984)
Another one of my dad's records that was squeaky clean and played like it was brand new, Too Tough to Die also sounded like it could have been released last week. Of course, the legend of The Ramones has traveled far and wide, and there's not much more to be written about the brilliance and staggering influence of these guys. So I'll just tell you about this record.
The album starts with a few Ramones' 'standards.' All clocking in around two or three minutes, these numbers are brash and bold; power chords are played with a familiar sneer, and drums crushed in perfect time by Joey Ramone. In '84, this was a welcome return to form for the band, and my favorite is the blistering Wart Hog. One of the few tracks sung by Dee Dee (I think) the lyrics are almost indiscernable, and were offensive enough to be omitted from the album sleeve by the label, Sire.
[ mp3 ]: The Ramones - Wart Hog
What really sets this album apart, though, is the middle portion. Here, The Ramones prove that they're not just the kings of the two minute punk song. Three songs in a row clock in over four minutes, and it's clear that The Ramones are more than capable of sustaining melodies, not just slamming you with a hook. The first, Chasing the Night, could have been a single for The Cars, with its New Wave-y keyboards and dance-worthy beat. (Oh shoot, did Dee Dee just roll over in his grave?)
[ mp3 ]: The Ramones - Chasing the Night
Howling at the Moon is another pop masterpiece...complete with a Baroque harpsichord bridge, which is the last thing you'd expect on a Ramones' record. Couple that with an insanely catchy 'sha-la-la' chorus, and a verse that harkens back to Doo Wop, and it's hard to believe you're even listening to The Ramones. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the reviews that came out in '84 contained the line, "This isn't your older brother's Ramone's record."
[ mp3 ]: The Ramones - Howling at the Moon
All in all, Too Tough To Die, while maybe not the quintessential Ramones record (hello, self-titled debut), is one of their finest efforts. Not a bad place to drop in, if you want to work your way backwards through their catalogue.