The Ramones – Brain Drain
You usually know something’s wrong with a band when they start discriminating who wrote what in an album. If there’s any type of intervention from the producer, then it’s usually worse than you thought.
Both these things happen on «Brain Drain»: first, the band drop their previous «all songs written by The Ramones» standard and start singling out composers. Worse, nearly half of the tracks are co-written by long.time friend and producer Daniel Rey. While his collaboration is a bit more legitimate than in other cases (he was, after all, friends with the Ramones), it still gives you an uneasy feeling. This album had everything it needed to go awfully wrong. But the fact is…it doesn’t. Not entirely.
Sure, most of these songs are unabashedly filler, an example being the horrendous «Ignorance Is Bliss». But a handful of good songs help save this album from total disaster. Take «I Believe In Miracles», for example. One of the band’s later-stage hits, this rocks with a vengeance. So does «Learn To Listen». And the metal-tinged drum intro to «Zero Zero UFO» - while conspicuously non-Ramonian – is simply awesome. It’s a pity, then, that the band side this with such uninspired, derivative material as «Come Back Baby» and the aforementioned «Ignorance is Bliss».
All in all, then, not a band pop/rock album. But it can never be called «punk». And considering who the band are that released it, we were entitled to something more. One for fans and non-connoisseurs only.
1 – I Believe In Miracles – This song will make you believe there’s a cure for cancer, as The Ramones rock harder than they have in about a decade or so. Pity it turns out to be the best song in the bunch. (5/5)
2 – Zero Zero UFO – Absolutely irresistible drum intro evolves into a fun, albeit uncharacteristical, track. Great, goofy B-Movie lyrics as well. (4,5/5)
3 – Don’t Bust My Chops – A boring track with good lyrics that are not enough to redeem it. (3/5)
4 – Punishment Fits The Crime – Sung by the departing Dee Dee, this song reeks of filler. At least it’s good filler… (3,5/5)
5 – All Screwed Up – Now THIS is more like it. A great chugging Ramones ballad in the «Boyfriend» tradition, this makes you re-evaluate the album so far. (4,5/5)
6 – Palisades Park – A great, typically Ramonian cover. Just a fun-filled track. (4,5/5)
7 – Pet Sematary – Conspicuously poppy, this is saved by its campy B-Movie lyrics. The band would play it much faster live. (4,5/5)
8 – Learn To Listen – Rock!! A loud, fast track in the classic Ramones fashion, this is also endowed with a great solo. (5/5)
9 – I Can’t Get You Outta My Mind – Another good ballad, but weaker than All Screwed Up. (3/5)
10 – Ignorance Is Bliss – Drab, uninspired, uncharacteristical and ultimately turgid. (1/5)
11 – Come Back Baby – Another uninspired track that’s about two minutes overlong. (2/5)
12 – Merry Christmas – The best Christmas spoof EVER, about Yule at a dysfunctional family’s. A great, addictive and fun track that wraps up the album neatly. (5/5)
Overall, then, a few good songs in context, but a no more than average album.