Mondo Bizarro

No matter how good a new Ramones album is, there's always someone complaining that it should have been better. Too slow, too quiet, even — in these days of high-priced CDs — too long: If it doesn't include fourteen tracks in under half an hour, something's very wrong. So strike 1: Mondo Bizarro has thirteen tracks in more than thirty-five minutes, including one, "Poison Heart," that goes on so long it's virtually an album in itself. I mean, four minutes isn't much for most bands, but these are the Ramones. Dee Dee would never have tolerated that!

Ah, but Dee Dee's gone now, and it's C.J. whose counting brings down Armageddon. And that's another thing: Since when have the Ramones sounded like Steppenwolf? C.J. takes the vocals two times, and both times you wonder: Could it be John Kay? Or could it be the Lizard King, whose "Take It As It Comes" wrings such a great voice out of Joey that if Morrison himself wasn't in the studio with the Ramones, then you know he must be dead?

The Ramones sound fiercer than they have in years on Mondo Bizarro. In terms of its lyrics, "Touring" is nothing spectacular, just another ode to life on the road; musically, though, it's hilarious, a spitball medley of the Ramones' greatest hits, so cunningly crafted that in years to come, it could be the ultimate show stopper. Come to think of it, it could be the entire show, seventeen songs in under three minutes and none lasting more than a riff or a lyric. That would be perfect Ramones — and it might even silence their critics.

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