PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Teenage Head: Teenage Head With Marky Ramone

Practically unknown in America, the Canadian punk legends cover their own songs with the help of a couple of friends.

Teenage Head

Teenage Head With Marky Ramone

Label: Sonic Unyon
US Release Date: 2008-06-10
UK Release Date: 2008-06-23

Although they've been a Canadian institution for the last three decades, Teenage Head's audience barely extends outside their home country. Offering a less edgy but equally hook-oriented take on the Ramones' early proto-punk rock (think of them as the Eddie Cochrane to the Ramones' Phil Spector), the Hamilton, Ontario band quickly made a name for themselves, first with their classic self-titled 1979 debut and then with their platinum-selling Frantic City a year later. As strong as their recorded material was, with Gord Lewis's rockabilly-inspired riffs countered by the unmistakable, snarky voice of Frankie Venom, Teenage Head earned their reputation through their live show, and they'd go on to become the ultimate Canadian road dogs, playing anywhere and everywhere. Thirty years, and well over 200,000 units sold later, the band is still doing its thing in Canada, regardless of the fact that there's a huge market just to the south that has still yet to be tapped.

Bad marketing ideas and just plain bad luck were big reasons why Teenage Head weren't able to make any kind of headway in America, but thanks to a spur-of-the-moment recording session with Marky Ramone and producer Daniel Rey, not only does the band at long last have a product to plug Stateside, but it turns out to be their best release in a very long time.

Usually, the very idea of a veteran band going back to the studio to re-record classic tunes has fans and critics alike rolling their eyes. The simple fact is, rarely if ever does the gimmick work, as it always ends up sounding like a bunch of tired, aging rockers putting on a sorry display of just how much of that original spark has been lost. Which makes Teenage Head With Marky Ramone all the more of a marvel, as not only do these re-hashed songs completely measure up to the originals, but several actually manage to top them.

And without question, the two guests on the album play a pivotal role. With everyone rushing into the studio with barely any time to spare, Rey is the perfect person to helm such a project, just like he did with the Ramones, as he has the musicians buckle down and hammer out each track in short succession, focusing more on the visceral attack of the riffs than the more frilly accoutrements such as acoustic guitar and piano that accentuated past Teenage Head albums. Marky Ramone, meanwhile, remains one of the tightest drummers rock 'n' roll has ever seen, his fierce backbeats keeping everything in check, his fills fluid, giving the impression of both efficiency and lackadaisical fun. But it's the three members of Teenage Head who are most crucial to this album's success, and Venom, Lewis, and bassist Steve Marshall rise to the challenge. The thin sneer of his youth maturing into a comfortable drawl not unlike the late Joe Strummer, Venom sounds as charismatic as ever, while Lewis's Les Paul riffs benefit hugely from Rey's mix, echoing the bite of Johnny Ramone at times.

As for the material covered, the most attention is paid to the debut album, as half of the CD's 12 tracks come from the '79 release, but as for the other six, there's a good variety. The cover of Chris Montez's "Some Kinda' Fun" and the raucous "Teenage Beer Drinkin' Party" differ greatly from the rather lightweight originals heard on 1982's Some Kinda Fun, the performances all muscle, while 1988's "You're the One I'm Crazy For" is especially noteworthy as it's the first time we've heard Venom perform the song on record (he had left the band in the late '80s), and the rousing cover of the Boys' "First Time", originally from 1995's Head Disorder, has Marky leading the charge, with Lewis channeling Johnny Ramone in his down-strummed, buzz saw riffs. The lone Frantic City representative is Canadian rock classic "Let's Shake", the signature song benefiting hugely from Venom's more measured vocal performance.

As for the six Teenage Head cuts, Marky Ramone adds a distinct Ramones flavor to the strutting "Top Down", the ride cymbal dinging away, while Venom carries such fan faves as "You're Tearin' Me Apart" and the classic "Picture My Face". "Lucy Potato" and "Little Boxes" are raucous, energetic performances, but it's "Ain't Got No Sense" that emerges as the biggest surprise, as the song, a gorgeous slice of post-punk pop that dares to rival the Undertones, has band, drummer, and producer gelling perfectly, the chemistry undeniable. It's the kind of joyous, dryly funny summer fare that obliterates Warped Tour bands young enough to be these dudes' grandkids.

Lewis mentions in his extensive liner notes, "I always thought it was so cool that Miles Davis listed Gil Evans as an arranger along with the performers for Some Kind of Blue. To me it was a true acknowledgement to the importance of someone outside of the musicians to the importance of the recording. I think of Daniel Rey in the same light." Indeed, while Marky Ramone gets the second billing, it's actually Rey who's the straw that stirs this particular drink, the immediacy which he lends to this project paying off with an immensely rewarding collection of re-worked classic cuts. No matter how many copies of this album sell in the States, this collaboration works so well, that the band would be nuts not to work with Rey the next time they have some new songs to record. In the meantime, we've got this irresistible gem of a record, and for Canadian rock 'n' roll fans, plenty of upcoming shows to catch.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.