Review Summary: If the Ramones are Disney, then Dee Dee is Dingo Pictures: someone who makes cheap, horrible knockoffs of the real thing, which aren’t even campy enough to earn cult value.
Jealousy’s a bitch, isn’t it!? Time and again, a spited party has tried to prove they’re just as good as their peers, only to fail miserably and be the object of ridicule. But moving away from my high school experience for a moment, let’s talk about the solo career of one Douglas Colvin, known to all and sundry as Dee Dee Ramone.
Dee Dee became famous as a founding member of The Ramones, one of proto-punk’s most seminal groups. Moving from his initial position as a singer to the more background role of bass player, he influenced millions of kids to pick up the instrument, with his simple, yet effective bass lines on albums like Ramones
or Rocket To Russia
. In the mid-80’s, his prominence on the group’s records was increased even further, with at least one or two songs on each album featuring his distinctive raspy bark in place of Joey’s more mellow tones. Unfortunately, however, his drug addiction grew at about the same rate as his importance within the band, and eventually became too much to take. In 1989, after the completion of the album Brain Drain
, Colvin left the band he had helped create, being replaced with C. J. Ramone for the group’s final decade.
And this, my friends, is where our story starts. Dee Dee’s somewhat acrimonious split with the Ramones apparently left sequels, because while his initial objective was to branch out into different genres – hence the white-boy rapping fiasco known as Dee Dee King – his subsequent albums showed him practicing a genre rather similar to that made famous by his original band. But can opuses like Hop Around
, on review here, live up to his former group’s seminal output? Are the Star Wars prequels as good as the original trilogy?
is an album devised by Dee Dee alongside wife Barbara, here in charge of bass and lead vocals in a few of the songs. Dee Dee himself handles guitar duties, as well as lend his raspy vocals to those tracks where Barbara doesn’t take the forefront. Accompanying the lovebird duo are Chris Spedding on second guitar and (rather prominent) Farfisa organ and Billy Rogers on drums. Which is funny, because listening to the album, I could have sworn those were programmed drums and keyboards I was hearing.
Yes indeed, even within the simplistic punk genre, this album is atrociously played. Dee Dee should have stuck to bass, because he obviously has no idea of what constitutes a pleasant guitar tone. Listening to the guitar here is like listening to a chainsaw cut through cardboard – dull, flat, and mildly annoying. The keyboards, while fun at times, eventually become too repetitive, as it seems the musician handling them only knows about two riffs. The drums are horrid
, with virtually no breaks, incredibly fake-sounding cymbals and plodding footwork, making them sound for all the world like a drum machine. And as for Dee Dee’s vocals, we all know how pleasant they are, don’t we?
But all this wouldn’t be so bad if the songwriting was inspired. Unfortunately, it’s not. The majority of the songs here could be described as Ramones songs, with Dee Dee’s vocals in place of Joey’s, and zero inspiration. Suffice it to say, this album has songs titled I Don’t Wanna Die In The Basement, Now I Want To Be Sedated, 38th and 8th
and Mental Patient
. And those
songs have lyrics like ”there’s something down there”
, ”oh I don’t now why, oh I don’t know why/why I want to be sedated”
and ”38th and 8th, turning tricks on the street/38th and 8th, don’t it make you feel sick”
. I wish I was making this up, honestly.
Still, again, one could go beyond the schoolboy plagiarism of the song titles and lyrics if the songs themselves were interesting. Sadly, once again, it’s a fail. Most songs on here consist of plodding, repetitive instrumentation and drab, unmemorable or just plain irritating choruses. Some of them don’t even have the decency of giving us actual lyrics, instead literally consisting of the song’s title repeated over and over, with maybe a slightly different part at the end (I Don’t Wanna Die In The Basement, Mental Patient, I Wanna You
). Worse, when Dee Dee isn’t busy flat-out copying
his former band’s song titles, he shows a penchant for bad grammar, such as in the laughable I Wanna You
(uh, dude, shouldn’t there be a verb
in there somewhere?) or crafting pathetic attempts at Bleach
-era-Nirvana style sludge which rank among the worse things on the album (I Saw A Skull Instead Of My Face, Master Plan
). The end result is a mishmash of horribleness, which isn’t even campy enough to be “so bad, it’s good”. This is just bad, plain and simple. By the time we get to the similarly uninspired reworking of Dee Dee’s own Chinese Rocks
, our interest has long left the building. And you know something’s wrong when an album can’t even make Chinese Rocks
But can anything at all be salvaged from this album? Well, actually, it can. Whenever Barbara Ramone takes the lead, the album becomes a passable pastiche of bubblegum girl groups. Songs like Rock’N’Roll Vacation In LA
and Hurtin’ Kind
, while not stellar, are at least slightly better than the rest. And then, of course, there’s the title track, probably the only really worthwhile thing to come out of this album. It’s a perfect surf-bubblegum pop ditty which comes blaring through your speakers and is sure to get you dancing every time. Sadly, it’s over far too quickly, leaving you helplessly stranded and at the mercy of the album’s remaining ***pile.
In conclusion, if the Ramones are Disney, then Dee Dee is Dingo Pictures: someone who makes cheap, horrible knockoffs of the real thing, which aren’t even campy enough to earn cult value. While some very
undemanding and lenient listeners may derive a modicum of pleasure from songs like Hurtin’ Kind, Rock’n’Roll Vacation in LA
or even Now I Want To Be Sedated
, none of them can thruthfully be construed as a good song. The only really worthwhile track on here is the title track; everything else will only be valued by masochists or those who don’t know better. So do me a favour: go and download Hop Around
and be done with it. Talk about the mighty falling!