Friday, August 15, 2008

Various Artists - 'Brats on the Beat: Ramones for Kids'

It’s amazing that, for all of the hullabaloo about punk rock’s desire to act rebellious and “up the punx,” one of the genres originators, The Ramones, were acolytes of the classic pop song. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy wanted to be as sweet as The Bay City Rollers, but they sorta kinda maybe couldn’t play their instruments. Such lack of ability would cause most bands to suck mightily, but The Ramones’ unskilled style allowed them to tap into a sort of primal rock and/or roll spirit. The band could rock thoroughly, but all of their songs were covered in a sugary pop sheen. Ramones tunes were every bit as catchy as The Beatles' catalog, just sped up a few hundred RPMs. And just as kids from the last few generations can claim to have been raised on The Beatles (lucky whippersnappers!), so too could the same be said for The Ramones. Both bands crafted perfect, self-contained singles that continue to appeal to youngins’.

The kiddie appeal of The Ramones hasn’t gone unnoticed, as a few recent children’s albums have tried to Kidz Bop-ercize the work of those blessed pinheads. One such compilation is Brats on the Beat: Ramones for Kids (it’s a play on words! Yay!), from Go Kart Records. Where the barely intelligible Rockabye Baby!: Lullaby Renditions of The Ramones converted the tunes into incoherent crap designed to render infants comatose, Brats on the Beat plays it safe. Though the recordings are much cleaner, this compilation is pretty faithful to the original versions of the 12 songs collected here. But that proves to be just as big of a weakness. Brats on the Beat tones down The Ramones, and in so doing becomes ditties just as sterile as the Icelandic dance-pop of Lazy Town.

Jim Lindberg of Pennywise leads the family-friendly charge with an army of children on gang vox. But while he does “Blitzkrieg Bop” justice, the kids themselves aren’t alright. In fact, they suck. “Blitzkrieg Bop,” along with the rest of the album, is riddled with kids singing out of time, with school bells ringing sporadically. It’s cool for us adults to hear Matt Skiba and Tony Reflex “do it for the kids,” but the studio recordings they sing over are painfully processed. Also, the kids are fucking annoying.

There is one track where the “kids punk rock” formula works, though. Bouncing Soul and all-around good guy Greg Attonito leads the kids in a sloppy yet rollicking rendition of “Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio.” Extra props go to the boy who hams it up in the beginning with “Let’s rock all roll with The Ramooooooones.”

What really kills off Brats on the Beat is that parents could just as easily give their spawn a Ramones record. Sure, Brats on the Beat skips out on inappropriate songs like “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” or its sequel, “Carbona, Not Glue,” but then again, so does Ramones Mania. Ramones Mania also boasts over twice as many tracks to boot. Sure, “responsible” parents might not want to play “Chinese Rock,” “Somebody Put Something in My Drink,” or “The KKK Took My Baby Away” in front of the young ones, but a lil editing on a CD-R should fix that.

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