Ramones - End of the Century (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


End of the Century (1980)


If we're gonna talk about End of the Century, the Ramones' final desperate crawl for success armed (literally sometimes) with Phil Spector, we should talk first about “Baby I Love You.” It's a Ronettes cover that both makes sense for a band that worshipped girl groups and classic pop, but the syrupy strings and orchestral sound matched with Joey's sneering, geeky voice is still a deeply surreal moment for the Ramones and for punk rock. How must it have felt to hear this on the radio with no clue what the fuck was going on? End of the Century is fascinating because you can see why the Ramones thought hooking up to Spector would finally give them hits, but the meeting of a professional, pristine Wall of Sound and the leather jacket, buzzsaw sound of the four is so deranged that it's a bizarre, gleeful concoction instead of a surefire success.

At best what this does is result in some classic Ramones rockers being augmented, like Marky's steel drums and the triumphant sax on “Do You Remember Rock And Roll Radio” - it's one of their most commanding openers as a result, even if as a statement of intent it's too much of a call to nostalgia (gee I wonder why this flopped as a single). Closer “High Risk Insurance” has some glorious ringing, triumphant guitar as a result of Spector's augmentations. “Danny Says” and “Rock And Roll High School” are probably the best songs on the album because they're the perfect melding of Spector and the Ramones' sensibilities – the layering of instruments and vocals work perfectly for “Danny” as the buzzsaw guitar builds up, creating an absolute classic Ramones ballad with a gorgeous melody.

But where End of the Century does fail is first the songwriting, with some pretty boring filler like “I Can't Make It On Time” and also that Spector's perfectionist (the word “lunatic” also comes to mind) tendencies just don't seem to gel on a lot of the tracks with a band who were ugly, cheap, and could play twelve songs in twenty minutes live. Tommy's production savvy was probably really missed here. I don't think it's nearly as bad as the band claimed, with some major stand outs in the singles, but it's a weird mix of ideas and tastes that is more curious and intriguing than brilliant. Still, it's essential for any Ramones fan and for any rock geek into insane team ups (“Hey, what if Phil Spector and the Ramones did an album together?!”) The version of “Baby I Love You” here says it all – kind of disastrous, very listenable.