As time passes, important links to the musical past gradually disappear and fade from our collective memory bank. The process is inevitable, but fortunately there are still those who not only remember the past, but actually lived it, and serve as the torch bearers for subsequent generations of musicians and fans. Marky Ramone is one such person, and with his Start of the Century twin disc set, he rekindles fond memories of his former Ramones band mates with nearly four dozen tracks of fast-paced fun and snottiness.
Marky’s post-Ramones career includes two late ‘90s albums with his band, the Intruders. In both cases, the recordings vanished under the radar without much notice, but are now freshly dusted off and fill the first disc of Start of the Century. Not surprisingly, the 29 tracks could fit comfortably on any Ramones album; they’re anchored by Marky’s distinctive drumming style, and feature the Intruders with two separate line-ups. The songs that comprised the Intruders’ second record (1999’s The Answer to Your Problems?) were produced by Lars Frederiksen, thus the prevailing Ramones flavor on Disc 1 is enhanced by sufficient Rancidness, distancing the material from “poor imitation” classification and into the realm of solid originals. Though the majority of songs resonate in much the same way, “Coward with a Gun” and “Maybe Tomorrow” stand out from the crowded set list, expertly incorporating many of the elements from the Ramones’ songbook: Catchy hooks, wacky lyrics and machine gun-precise rhythms. As a special treat (and adding a bit of authentic sneer) punk mistress Joan Jett stops by for a visit and lends support on “Don’t Blame Me”. Is every tune of the 29 a classic? Of course not, but they’re all keepers, and there aren’t many, if any, noticeable dead zones on Disc 1.
Having served up a generous helping of Marky’s studio material, Start of the Century includes 18 live tracks from a February 2005 trio of shows in Mexico. In contrast to the first disc’s Ramones-inspired originals, Disc 2 features covers of Ramones classics, and therein lies the only glaring problem with Start of the Century: The Ramones had such a unique style and sound, covers consistently fall short, despite their best intentions. That’s not to say Disc 2’s material is inherently weak … it isn’t, but there’s no disguising Marky sitting in with a Ramones cover band. And while Marky and his cohorts do a solid job on stage, it’s impossible to shake the memory of Johnny, Joey, and Dee Dee playing alongside their bruddah and his kit. Thus, Start of the Century‘s companion disc doesn’t fare quite as well as its predecessor.
The best aspect about Start of the Century comes by way of knowing that Marky is alive and, well, still playing. Though the original material is not quite current, and the live tracks pale in comparison to the genuine article, the two discs are still an energized romp with our pal Marky leading the way. Hopefully, Ramones fans will be treated to additional Marky Ramone music in the not too distant future. Until then, enjoy Start of the Century for what it is … a solid effort by a stand-up guy who still hits the Mark.