CJ Ramone - Last Chance to Dance (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

CJ Ramone

Last Chance to Dance (2014)

Fat Wreck Chords

In 1989, the Ramones were at a crossroads. Bassist and founding member Dee Dee Ramone left the band shortly after the release of the band’s eleventh album, Brain Drain. Rather than pack it in after losing such a creative force, Johnny, Joey, and Marky recruited Chris Ward, a young kid fresh out of the Marine Corps. Rechristening him CJ Ramone, the band continued on for seven more years, with CJ playing a stronger role towards the end, singing four songs on the bands final studio album, ¡Adios Amigos!. CJ dropped out of music for a time, focusing on family responsibilities, but resurfaced in 2012, releasing Reconquistan under the CJ Ramone moniker. Two years later marks his debut on Fat Wreck Chords, with Last Chance to Dance.

Released a month ago, the leadoff single, “Understand Me,” instantly reminds the listener of CJ’s previous, better-known band. As previously written, there are times that CJ “almost sounds like Joey,” as he continues to do on “Won’t Stop Swinging,” especially on the chorus. “One More Chance” recalls '50s Pop, with Dan Root and Steve Soto (of Adolescents fame) providing their distinct guitar sounds, at times giving the album an old-school O.C. feel.

“Carry Me Away” slows the pace down a bit, but “’Til the End” brings it back to that late '50s feel, and “Long Way to Go” rips the lid off of CJ and his band. One of the album’s highlights, it’s a barroom rocker with a scream-along chorus. From the high to the low, the longest song on Last Chance to Dance, “Mr. Kalashnikov,” is also one of the weakest. Regardless of anyone’s feelings on the subject of guns and gun ownership, the song is a boring tribute to the creator of one of CJ’s favorite weapons. He recovers quickly on “Pitstop” (although it bears a suspicious similarity to “Carbona Not Glue”), but drops back down again on the follow-up, “Grunt.” It’s angrier and dirtier than the rest of the collection of songs on Last Chance to Dance, and feels out of place. In hindsight, it would have been a much better b-side to “Understand Me?” than the non-album “Rise Above” was.

“You Own Me” and “Last Chance to Dance” close out the album, with a combined five minutes of head-bobbing, sugary sweet melodies. “Last Chance to Dance,” if you make to to the end, will stay in your head for days, CJ repeating the title over and over for the last minute of the song. “Cluster Fuck” puts an emphatic exclamation point on the 12-song collection, which times out exactly at the 30-minute mark.

CJ Ramone’s first release on Fat Wreck Chords is a more than admirable effort, and certainly worthy of the recognition that he name will rightfully attract to it. Many songs, particularly “You Own Me,” “Understand Me,” “One More Chance” and the title track would have sounded perfectly at home on a latter-era Ramones record, while others (“Mr. Kalashnikov,” “Grunt,” and “Cluster Fuck”) sound a bit out of place when placed against the others. But while it’s easy to make all the Ramones comparisons, it’s also unfair, as it’s CJ’s record and ultimately should be judged on its own merit. In the end, Last Chance to Dance is an enjoyable spin, but nothing groundbreaking. A good rock ‘n roll record for fans looking for a quick fix.