Sex Pistols the first punk rockas? Feggedaboudit! Punk is as American as the Ramones, formed in Forest Hills, New York, in 1974. They were on their third LP when the Pistols debuted. Keying off their '60s U.S. pop and garage-band influences while sneering at the bloated state of '70s rock, Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy virtually invented the loud 'n' snotty punk style and 'tude, playing in Bowery dives like CBGB. The band scored a deal with Sire Records and soon conquered the world, but on their own terms. By their 2,263rd, and final, concert in August 1996, the Ramones had outsmarted and outlasted most of their critics-and inspired countless followers. Now the godfathers of punk take a rocket to Rhino on this two-CD career-spanning collection. Produced with the band's cooperation, Hey! Ho! Let's Go! contains nearly 60 hard 'n' fast tracks from 14 albums, from 1976's Ramones to 1995's Adios Amigos-that's more than two-and-a-half hours of peak-volume punk. Also includes a hardback book gathering rare photos and memorabilia, along with extensive liner notes.
Like most true originals, the Ramones embodied a dizzying array of contradictions. As punk godfathers, they became the archetype for a rebellious musical ethos that could often confuse the baby for the bath water, yet at heart they were 1960s pop- and bubblegum-worshipping reactionaries. The seeming unity symbolized by their street-hood uniform (ripped jeans, deck shoes, and black leather jackets) and name (nicked from an early nom de plume
of Beatle Paul) belied turmoil both personal and personnel. And the dumber-than-dumb stance of the likes of "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue," "Cretin Hop," and "Teenage Lobotomy" actually masked some of the shrewdest rock ever recorded. If Rhino/Warner Archive's two-disc anthology seems like hardly enough room to document a band with a quarter-century legacy, it's good to remember that the Ramones prided themselves on stripping every song they attempted to its elemental core, then halving it again with their patented buzzsaw, double-stop tempo. Journalist David Fricke's enclosed history is telling, if ironically packaged in a glossy hard-back edition that seems more befitting the likes of Fleetwood Mac
. The nearly five dozen tracks here, reaching from the early '70s to the late '90s, stand remarkably outside of time--just like true originals. --Jerry McCulley