Loco Live

The Ramones

Sire / Warner Brothers Records, 1991

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/17/2001

With the death of Joey Ramone this past Sunday, I got to thinking about how my interest in The Ramones began. I wish I could say that I had been into them since they first burst onto the scene - but I was only five years old when their self-titled debut album hit the streets.

Instead, my first full-length Ramones experience came in 1992, when I was sent Loco Live to review as a college journalist. Granted, I had heard a few Ramones songs by then, but I was hardly an expert in their genre. (I'm still not, to be quite honest.) Oh, I liked punk - I had developed a healthy appetite for Black Flag, Husker Du and the Sex Pistols. But I didn't realize that without the Ramones, these bands might never have made it as far as they did.

In all fairness, Loco Live is not the ideal place for a Ramones newbie to start. It's not that the disc is bad by any means, but what you hear from this show recorded in Barcelona, Spain, is a band who have had some 15 years to polish and tighten up their material. It's not quite as raw as one might expect.bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250

At times, the boys - Joey, Johnny, C.J. and Marky - sound like they are so comfortable with this material that they could perform it in their sleep. This is not meant to be a criticism of the band, but the way they plow through such classics as "Blitzkrieg Bop," "Beat On The Brat" and "Psycho Therapy," it sometimes feels like the band wanted to move past the older stuff to get to their more recent albums at that time. (In a sense, this isn't a fair statement, since of the 31 tracks - not including the sample of "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly" that opens the show - eight of them come from Ramones.)

While the musical tightness does show some of the strengths this particular Ramones lineup had (Marky Ramone proves to be one helluva drummer), it sometimes feels like the sloppy urgency of the music is taken away. Compare this disc to It's Alive, the first concert recording from the Ramones, and see what I mean. (Admission: I have yet to get through It's Alive. Maybe we'll tackle that one next.)

Maybe it's that some people, myself included, prefer the original versions of songs like "Cretin Hop" and "Rock 'N' Roll High School". Then again, Joey and the boys are able to breathe life into songs like "Pet Sematary" and "Somebody Put Something In My Drink," two songs I can't say I'm the most fond of. And they do kick even a classic like "Chinese Rocks" into new heights.

So why would I hint that Loco Live might not be the best place for a newbie to start? Simple: there's much to be learned about the Ramones from their studio releases, and much to be absorbed. With the rapid-fire delivery of the songs on this disc, a newcomer might be overwhelmed. I know that's how I felt back in '92. But for the long-time fan, this disc will be like a cool drink of water - or at least a firehose in the face.

If anything, Loco Live seems to be an accurate picture of what the Ramones live experience was like at this juncture in their career. If you've got some knowledge about the band, you'll definitely want to add this to your collection. If you're still learning about them, you might want to start with Ramones, Ramones Mania or even the recently-released two-disc anthology. Once you've got a little of that coursing through your veins, you'll be ready for Loco Live.

Rating: B-

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sire / Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.