Ramones - Too Tough To Die (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Too Tough To Die (1984)

Sire Records

Too Tough To Die is one of the purest Ramones albums, a pummeling record that captures the Ramones responding to the harder edges of the new punk and taking advantage of the trends to get back to basics. This is still a band that can record “Endless Vacation” and then do the massive “Howling At The Moon”, a song whose songwriting is so in sync with Dion and the early 60's rock ballads (even if the synths obviously date it) that for years I thought this was a cover of something much older than 1984. It's a great mix of the Ramones at their meanest and prettiest, and it's probably the last great thing they did.

It should be said then that the album isn't exactly Minor Threat Redux – one thing that dates Too Tough To Die is the fairly pristine Eighties production, from the reverb on some of Joey's vocals to the muffled, heavily mic'ed drums (the worst part of it by far). There are synths, keyboards, even a piano roll on “Daytime Dillema”. As much as the production is screwed over slightly by that large mid-Eighties sound Tommy Ramone does a fine job making Joey's voice harder and rougher than it's been in years, and when the song needs to sound nasty he goes for it. “Wart Hog” is exhilarating, fun hardcore punk with Dee Dee singing as if he's descended completely into animal form, the vocals less language than a continual braying of rage.

These are also much angrier songs than anything on End of the Century, like the raging “Human Kind” or the swaggering, brooding “I'm Not Afraid Of Life”. The two hardcore style songs with Dee Dee are pounding freakouts that proved that the Ramones could do hardcore and Misfit-style chants brilliantly, they just didn't need to (Dee Dee by the end of “Endless Vacation” sounds like the drugged, bile spewing uncle of Darby Crash). Yet these are balanced by the Ramones' ability to do perfect pop, like the aforementioned “Howling At The Moon” and the rockabilly, cocksure “No Go”.

The Ramones probably never did anything as great as this again but Too Tough To Die is still a classic of eighties punk, with at least two of their best songs popping up here. On re-listen even amid eighties reverb it holds up incredibly well on the strength of the writing and range. It was the Ramones not just saying that they could rock out with the younger kids, but saying “We can do anything.”