City Paper is not for tourists
Despite its cynical provenance—it was the only way Radioactive could cash in on the Ramones’ Sire catalog classics—the Ramones’ Greatest Hits Live is quite an enjoyable disc. Recorded, and well, in New York last Leap Day, the album documents what was supposed to be the punk originators’ swan song. Then Lollapalooza came calling, “adios amigos” turned into “mucho dinero,” and now Live functions instead as a promo for what moshing mudders can expect this summer. The Ramones have lost a step in terms of pure speed, but they’re still pretty fast (16 cuts in 33 minutes), and the performances here are bracingly tight. Joey’s voice has gained a gravelly edge over the years, which adds an ambiguous rancor to some of the oldest songs (most notably “We’re a Happy Family”); the possibility that he’s pissed off about still having to sing “I Wanna Be Sedated” 18 years down the road creates an interesting subtext to much of the disc. On the other hand, some of Live’s tracks are dubious selections for a greatest hits collection; “Strength to Endure” and “The Crusher” are here apparently just to increase Dee Dee’s royalty share. The disc ends with two studio cuts: Motörhead’s tribute, “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.,” which is a much blunter but no less effective bit of self-mythologizing than Rocket to Russia’s “Ramona” was, and a cover of the Dave Clark Five’s “Any Way You Want It.” There has always been an obvious affinity between the Ramones and the DC5, but the track is chiefly interesting as a bizarre coincidence: The Ramones are now the second cartoonish New York band to end a live album with a studio version of the song. And I hate to say it, but Kiss’ version is better.