Album review: Various Artists, We’re a Happy Family—A Tribute to Ramones (2003)


By Steve Newton

You don’t fuck with the Ramones. And one of the best ways to not fuck with them is to not change their music around; i.e., slow it down. Somebody should have pointed that obvious fact out to Marilyn Manson before they let the shock-rock freak pull off a tedious version of “The KKK Took My Baby Away” for this tribute to the Big Apple punk legends.

Fortunately, for all those three-chord rock fans who still have a little “gabba gabba hey” in them, Manson’s fancy-pants interpretive approach is more the exception than the rule here.

Punk-based bands like Rancid and the Offspring know enough to keep the fast-paced, sharp-edged attack of the Ramones intact, and that’s why their respective versions of “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” and “I Wanna Be Sedated” are standouts here. And KISS comes up with its best song in 30 years with a true-to-the-original version of “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio”.

Sporting a 25-page booklet crammed with photos of Joey and the boys in all their denim ’n’ leather glory, and a personalized intro from Ramones devotee Stephen King, this is one tribute that truly fulfills its purpose. Still, it is a little tricky to grasp the concept of U2’s ultra-serious Bono chanting “beat on the brat, beat on the brat, beat on the brat with a baseball bat”.

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