Various Artists | We’re A Happy Family – A Tribute to the Ramones | Columbia
There have been so many tribute albums dedicated to the Ramones that it has become tricky to keep track of them all. Then again, who would really want to? Though they are now credited as punk pioneers, the musical homage thus far amounts to lame renditions that make one’s ears go numb from lack of imagination. The long awaited We’re A Happy Family: A Tribute to the Ramones breaks this string of weak accolades and attempts a heartening offer of appreciation.
Beginning in Nowhereville venues, the Ramones were first notorious for being a musical joke as they strummed simple chords while clad in leather jackets and ripped jeans. They combined fast-paced beats with simple lyrics and were truly the antithesis of the hip sound of the moment, glam rock. Yet, over 20 years later, legendary musicians from all sides of the musical spectrum are clambering to participate in a tribute to the band who succeeded in changing rock from fashion to foundation.
Overseen by Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone, the album is dedicated to the late Joey Ramone, who passed away in 2001 from lymphoma, and former bassist Dee Dee Ramone, who died after an accidental drug overdose the following year. Clearly, Johnny and the album’s other producers chose to stray outside the purely “punk” and “rock” genres, when assembling tribute artists, accumulating artists who have likely never shared a stage (think Rob Zombie and Pete Yorn).
We’re A Happy Family is able to find a respectable balance between traditional imitations like “Outsider” (Green Day) and “I Wanna Be Sedated” (Offspring) and radical re-inventions by the likes of Tom Waits’ bluegrass “Return of Jackie and Judy” and Marilyn Manson’s creepy horror film rendition of “The KKK Took My Baby Away.” Other artists include the Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, Metallica and Eddie Vedder. The end product? An album that will infuse one’s morning showers with a healthy dose of unexpectedly pure Ramone-induced nostalgia.