This series — "You've Never Heard..." — started when Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton found out that I had never listened to Beck's Odelay. They were shocked until they realized that I was a toddler when Beck started making music. So, in an attempt to bridge my knowledge gap and make them feel less old, they started giving me classic albums I haven't heard to see what I thought. This week, they gave me the Ramones' debut album.
One of the reasons I'd never picked up an entire Ramones album is that I'd heard all the ubiquitous hit songs already. I pretty much figured that if you've heard one, you've heard them all: two or three power chords against pretty much the same drum beat, all playing too fast to really notice any differences that are there. Plus, the lyrics sound like they were written by a drunk on a deadline. I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything profound or life-changing. My first listen didn't really change that impression. There were two back-to-back songs somewhere in the middle that I liked, but then I looked down at my CD player and realized that those two songs were actually five songs.
This mattered less each time I listened to it, though. This album was not meant to be appreciated for its songwriting or its musicianship — it's pure, mindless fun from a band that doesn't claim to be anything else. They revel in their own simplicity with lines like "second verse, same as the first" (in "Judy Is a Punk"). And there's no point in analyzing a song like "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue," whose lyrics include the title followed by "now I want something to do," then switch the "I" with "all the kids."
For the longest time, I thought punk rock was all about making a conscious statement of rebellion, but this album is kind of an anti-statement. Joey Ramone wasn't trying to save the world with his music; he was just trying to give the kids something to do. I salute their silly, glue-sniffing, brat-beating, blitzkrieg-bopping greatness.