Animal Men is more like it. Ten years have passed since Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee torched the sluggish Seventies with their debut album, Ramones, the punk-rock blast that shook the world, and the Carbona Kids are now staring middle age in the face, over-thirty ravers still cranking out kiloton cretin teenage bop. But thank God for arrested development. Animal Boy, the Ramones’ ninth studio album (and their second with current drummer boy Richie Ramone), is a reductionist masterpiece — nonstop primal fuzz pop that rivals Ramones Leave Home and Rocket to Russia for gonzo chuckles.
Hands-down winners in the kiddiemetal department are Dee Dee’s pithy “Crummy Stuff” (“I had enough/I had it tough/I had enough/Of that crummy stuff”) and Richie’s biker-rock wig-out “Somebody Put Something in My Drink.” Joey sings the latter with an exaggerated wino growl while Johnny crushes the chord changes with his trash-compactor guitar. The loopy hardcore wham of “Apeman Hop,” complete with dopey jungle noises and Tarzan yells, will also have you slamdancing with a smile.
Animal Boy, however, isn’t all monkeyshines. The Ramones’ decade of discontent on rock’s commercial and social fringe has hardened their little rascal hearts; “Mental Hell” is a “My Degeneration” crawling-the-walls blues, and Dee Dee spits out the words of the ninety-seven-second harangue “Eat That Rat” with venomous zeal. “Love Kills,” originally intended for the soundtrack of Alex Cox’s forthcoming Sid Vicious-Nancy Spungen docudrama, sounds like standard-issue bamalama until you decipher the agitated mix of bitter loss and righteous anger in Dee Dee’s rabid yapping. “Sid was a fuck-up king/Nancy was a groupie queen,” he snaps in the first verse before bidding them goodbye with a loving snarl — “Sid and Nancy meant a lot to me/You may be dead but your souls are free.”
The Ramones, on the other hand, are still alive and thrashing. They have stayed true to their original CBGB clatter and goofy sense of adolescent humor and at the same time developed the wit and the will to take on larger issues. Their brilliant ’85 single “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg,” here retitled “My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down,” vividly captures the sense of helplessness and confusion felt by rock youth in the Age of Reagan, thanks in no small part to the metallic pop production of ex-Plasmatic Jean Beauvoir.
Rock & roll has a lot to thank the Ramones for, but Animal Boy proves they still have a lot more to give. “You can’t lock me in a cage,” barks Joey in the title track. “This ain’t the Stoneage/Better get out of my way/Someone’s gonna have to pay.” Buy Animal Boy now and invest in their next ten years.