Review Summary: Further down the spiral.2 of 4 thought this review was well written
The story of the Ramones is well-known, and similar to that of many other bands: after a groundbraking, genre-defining streak of albums in the late 70s, the group began a spiralling descent in quality and popularity which would very seldom pick up until their sadly overdue demise two decades later.
The first signs of this impending fate were felt as early as 1979, when the lacklustre Road To Ruin
broke the foursome’s undefeated streak of the previous five years. However, the runaway success of single I Wanna Be Sedated
, coupled with 1980’s firmly above-average End Of The Century
, would help mask these deficiencies for a couple more years, until Pleasant Dreams
once again exposed the numerous chinks in the Ramones’ armour. However, with another successful couple of songs in We Want The Airwaves
and [i[The KKK Took My Baby Away[/i], the noxious effects of this vastly underwhelming album could, once again, have been minimised had the group put out a decent follow-up (a la End Of The Century
Unfortunately, they put out Subterranean Jungle
Marked by inner turmoil culminating in the sacking of Marky Ramone (who is relegated to a barely-visible window cameo on the cover, in stark contrast to his front-centre bandmates), Subterranean Jungle
is the musical equivalent of a person’s last attempts at salvation before drowning or being pulled under by quicksand. Here and there, there are clear signals that the group is actually trying to recapture the fun-loving attitude of their early years (In The Park, Time Bomb
, the standouts), but those quickly become bogged down by the sheer mediocrity of the remaining material. The result is not so much a soaring escape from the sandpit as it is a feeble gasp for a few more seconds of precious oxygen.
Early on, the listener does hold a degree of expectation for the album. The opening cover to Little Bit O’ Soul
is a step In the right direction, and the rollicking Outsider
gloriously shows the Ramones at the peak of their form, delivering the kind of goofy misfit song which had made their success in the previous decade. All in all, despite the horribly hollow mixing, it seems like Jungle
will not be as bad as its predecessor, and may just set the Ramones back on the right path.
Unfortunately, this impression is not to last. Almost immediately after the last cymbal crash of Outsider
, the album descends into a murk of mediocrity from where it very rarely rears its head for the remaining duration. As noted, there are a few attempts at recapturing the group’s fun-loving, poppy innocence, and a couple almost succeed - Psycho Therapy
is easily the best song on the album (and deserved a better fate than this), and the infectious Time Bomb
goes neck-to-neck with Little Bit O’ Soul
for the position of third standout. Mostly, however, these attempts are nullified by the horridness of stuff like [i[Highest Trails Above[/i] and the utter ‘meh’diocrity of pretty much everything else. The enhanced reissue holds another surprise, in Indian Giver
, but generally continues the trend of presenting one bright spot in a sea of mediocrity.
All in all, then, [i[Subterranean Jungle[/i] is not the second (third?) wind the Ramones needed to set their career back on track. Instead, it took the decrease in quality Pleasant Dreams
had started and kicked it into high gear, pretty much ensuring that the four bruthas did the exact opposite: stray so far from the right track that they lost sight of it. The descent into awfulness only became swifter from this point on, and the occasional strong offerings (Animal Boy, Mondo Bizarro
) would prove powerless to stop it. As for Subterranean Jungle
, while it may not be the
low point of the Ramones’ career (the group did
put out Halfway To Sanity
), it is undoubtedly a reflection of just how quick and pronounced the group’s fall from grace was, and is best avoided even by die-hard fans.
Little Bit O’ Soul