Leave Home (Deluxe Edition)
“We wanted to save rock ’n’ roll,” guitarist Johnny Ramone wrote in his 2012 memoir, to which he gave the militaristic title Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone. The guitarist oversaw the New York City quartet as though he were an army general, and his first rule was that the Ramones should never change. As a result, the band’s second album sounds nearly identical to its first. (And its third. And its fourth.) Ramones albums are like those puzzles that challenge you to spot the minuscule differences between two photos or a pair of paintings. Leave Home returns to many of the same topics that had fueled the band’s 1976 self-titled debut: There are new songs about not fitting in (“Pinhead”) and about getting high (“Carbona Not Glue,” which outraged the makers of the fabric-cleaner Carbona, who didn’t take kindly to their product being described as a drug). Leave Home also features songs about macabre impulses (“Commando”), though the band’s grim humor becomes more disturbing on “Glad to See You Go,” which fantasizes about murdering an annoying girlfriend and becoming famous “like Charles Manson.” And, much like the group’s debut, Leave Home includes a cover of a 1960s classic—in this case, it’s “California Sun,” most famously recorded by The Rivieras. Overall, the songs on Leave Home are faster, and played with more power and motion, especially on standout tracks like “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment.” And the production on Leave Home is better, as evidenced by the reverse vocal effect at the start of “Pinhead,” which later became an anthem for the band, thanks to its “Gabba gabba hey!” chant. Because the music on Leave Home has more agility, the jokes are funnier too. Only the Ramones could get away with lines as adamantly nonsensical as “D-U-M-B/Everyone’s accusing me” and “Eat kosher salamis” and somehow still sound clever. And although the songs that took their inspiration from B-movie cartoon violence got most of the attention, singer Joey Ramone shows off a growing romantic sense on Leave Home tracks like “I Remember You,” “Oh Oh I Love Her So,” and the semi-sensitive “You’re Gonna Kill That Girl,” which is part Beach Boys song, part midnight slasher-flick tale.