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Rocket to Russia

Sire SR 6042
Released: November 1977
Chart Peak: #49
Weeks Charted: 25

Marky RamoneDee Dee RamoneJohnny RamoneJoey RamoneRocket to Russia is the best American rock & roll of the year and possibly the funniest rock album ever made. Not that the Ramones are a joke -- they're more worthwhile than almost anything that's more self-conscious because they exist in a pure and totally active state.

Rocket shows substantial progress in the group's sound -- it has opened up so that hints of Beach Boys harmonies float among the power chords, kind of like moving with the Who from My Generation to Happy Jack. Certainly, there is nothing resembling the lock step of the first two albums holding them back. The guitars still riff relentlessly, but they are freer within the murky sound, and the songs give them much more to work with. It is some kind of tribute to suggest that the least effective songs on the album are the oldies, "Do You Wanna Dance" and "Surfin' Bird." And if this is a hilarious album, it is also astute: "We're a Happy Family" and "Why Is It Always This Way" are extremely funny just to the extent that the situations are horribly typical.

Ramones - Rocket to Russia
Original album advertising art.
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Despite the title, the Ramones aren't about escape. Reductionist aggression never is -- conquest is more like it. And if you're alienated by it, that's because you're supposed to be. The Ramones explore the dirty truths that pop music and rock designed to "entertain" have to cover up. This is truly the land of "No Fun" -- none asked for, none given. Just action, constant and unyielding, pleasant or miserable.

Most contemporary music -- yeah, even the New Wave stuff -- asks why we've slowed down or complains about the fact. The Ramones consider this irrelevant. The question they pose is more interesting: why can't you keep up? I dare you to try.

- Dave Marsh, Rolling Stone, 12/29/77.

Bonus Reviews!

The Ramones' most straight forward and primitively basic of all rock deliveries magically contain an implied and endearing sense of melody. The group's third album, together with its slight but elemental tongue-in-cheekiness and themes of rebellion, escape and the nuances of American life, offers an outlet for both thoughtful and invigorating release. The same formula rigidly holds throughout and a sharper focus illuminates most of the 14 songs for special individual appeal. Best cuts: "Rockaway Beach," "I Don't Care," "Teenage Lobotomy."

- Billboard, 1977.

Tired of Conceptual Rock? Tired of bands (and reviewers) who can't tell the difference between a one-joke act and a serious aesthetic statement? Tired of three-chord clatter that doesn't even have the integrity of true mindlessness? Well, if you aren't, chances are you'll just love Rocket to Russia by the Ramones. To be fair, there are a few yucks ("Cretin Hop" is actually kind of funny in a Mad magazine sort of way, especially when you consider that it's a dig at the group's audience), but the basic rule of minimalist art is that very little happens, and I'm afraid that sums up the album.

- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 4/78.

Having revealed how much you can take out and still have rock and roll, they now explore how much you can put back in and still have Ramones. Not that they've returned so very much -- a few relatively obvious melodies, a few relatively obvious vocals. But that's enough. Yes, folks, there's something for everyone on this ready-made punk-rock classic. Stoopidity, both celebrated and satirized. Love (thwarted) and social protest (they would seem to oppose DDT). Inspired revivals (the Trashmen) and banal cover versions (Bette Midler and Cass Elliott beat them to "Do You Wanna Dance?"). And, for their record company and the ears of the world, an actual potential hit. If "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" was the most significant number eighty-four record in history, what will "Rockaway Beach" do for number twenty? (Did I hear five?) A

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The epitome of "stoopidity" -- the Ramones at their peak. Includes "Rockaway Beach," "Teenage Lobotomy," and other fine examples of Ramonedom. * * * *

- Jeff Tamarkin, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

The group's pop roots began to show on Rocket to Russia (1977) and Road to Ruin (1978) -- compiled on volume two of All the Stuff (1990) -- making it the best place to start, if only for Joey's yearning vocals on the Searchers' "Needles and Pins," the convincing country-rock of "Questioningly" and the fist-pumping guitar attack of "I Wanna Be Sedated" and "I Just Want to Have Something to Do." * * * *

- David Okamoto, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

The Ramones wrote their third album on tour, as they took the gospel of three chords and ripped denim beyond New York's five burroughs. Rocket to Russia was also their first true studio triumph, an exuberant, polished hottling of CBGB-stage napalm of Ramones and Leave Home. Honed arrangements and a dash of gloss bring out the Top Forty classicism in "Rockaway Beach" and "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" and the lonely-boy poignancy of Joey Ramone's vocals in "I Don't Care" and "I Wanna Be Well." Rocket was also the last album made by the Ramones' founding four: Drummer Tommy Ramone left to be a full-time producer.

Rocket to Russia was chosen as the 105th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

The Ramones' third album is an exhuberant, polished bottling of their debut's CBGB napalm. The razor-sharp hooks bring out Top 40 classicism in "Rockaway Beach" and "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" and lonely-boy poignancy in Joey Ramone's vocals on "I Wanna Be Well."

Rocket to Russia was chosen as the 385th greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.

- Rolling Stone, 10/20.

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