“Mondo Bizarro” is the 12th studio album by American punk rock band, Ramones. It was released in 1992 on Radioactive Records and produced by Ed Stasium. The line-up for the album was Joey Ramone (vocals), Johnny Ramone (guitar), C.J. Ramone (bass/vocals) and Marky Ramone (drums).
With Dee Dee Ramone having left the band due to various accounts of substance abuse, the band had to accept change and also stick to their morals. New bass player C.J. sings lead vocals on two songs, “Strength to Endure” and “Main Man”, while Dee Dee wrote those two plus “Poison Heart”, which was supposedly sold to the band to pay for his prison bail. Is it any good? Let’s find out!
This song is an attack against the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center), the so-called ‘Washington Wives’, led by Tipper Gore. The PMRC made sure that records which contained explicit lyrics were censored with stickers on the front warning parents against buying them. Ironically there are no obscene lyrics in the song but that could be the point of it. The way the lyrics tell Tipper Gore to look past this and see the real problems in America is a nice touch by the band. Musically, it’s a really good song and typical Ramones with three chord riffs and a pounding drum beat.
The Job That Ate My Brain
This goes back to the band’s earlier roots of punk but still sticks with the faster pace the band had been known for in the later years. It is a track about the monotonous grind of a dead end job, from getting up in the morning to catching transport to work and clocking in. The narrator is saying that the 9 to 5 life is destroying him inside and making him go a little crazy.
Written by Dee Dee, “Poison Heart” is a slower song but still packs a punch. The only problem is, it’s a strange song for the Ramones to play – it almost doesn’t fit but yet it still does. Dee Dee is the narrator in this instance and he’s saying that it’s hard to trust people because he has been let down so many times in the past by various people including friends and family. The chorus of this song and the line “I just want to walk right out of this world” sums up Dee Dee in an instant.
This is the second of two songs written by Marky with Garrett Uhlenbrock and is about the highs and lows of anxiety disorder. The lows are obviously the affliction and the highs are the drugs that pep you up from suffering. It is an upbeat song with a great rhythm section and fast-flowing guitar strums.
Strength to Endure
This was written by Dee Dee and sung by his replacement, C.J. The two actually sound a lot alike and it is easy to imagine it being sung by Dee Dee. If you could call it a love song then you probably would, but the lyrics suggest otherwise. It is really a song about Dee Dee’s drug problems, in which he’s helped along by his then wife to attempt to overcome the addiction he had.
It’s Gonna be Alright
Here is a song written by Joey and a dedication to all Ramones fans around the world. It is not made aware of what the lyrics are pertaining to, but he may be telling us that while Dee Dee is no longer in the band, C.J. is a more than competent replacement so don’t worry about a thing because 1992 is “the year of the monkey, gonna be real funky”. It is a wonderfully played song with some good guitar hooks on top of those three chord strums and one of the surprises on the album.
Take it as it Comes
This is a cover version of The Doors song, originally recorded for their 1967 eponymous debut album. The original version is good, but you have to love the punk touch the Ramones put on this one, with heavy guitars being helped along by the trademark Doors keyboard sound. You can hear Joey’s distinctive vocals on the song but you can also hear tones of Jim Morrison.
This is sung by C.J. and was written by his predecessor, Dee Dee. On this song, C.J. makes it his own and it is clear that he was the right guy to replace the legendary bassist and you really couldn’t imagine anyone else singing this one… even Dee Dee. This has all the roots of rock and roll mixed with some punk and a little bit of heavy metal. The song is about Dee Dee’s choices to go it alone, he doesn’t want anything from anyone and he’ll do it his own way.
Tomorrow She Goes Away
This could really belong on the Ramones’ debut album back in 1976 because of its simplicity. It’s quite clearly the Ramones of the 1990s but still has that early feel and the magic the band had of being untouchable back then. The vocal harmony in the chorus is magnificent and it really is a well written song on the whole. It’s a song about a relationship gone bad and the narrator’s girl is moving out, so he can’t wait for tomorrow.
I Won’t Let it Happen
This has a 60s pop song feel to it with its acoustic guitars and slow melody that you’d get with some of Joey’s favorite bands, but many say it is the weakest song on the album and is probably filler material, which is a real shame because it was going so good up until this point. Some people may well like it but others will definitely not.
Cabbies on Crack
Here is a song written by Joey about a real life experience he had in a taxi cab in New York. The cab driver drove like a maniac and Joey wondered if he’d ever get home safe, but fortunately he did and he wrote this song about the ordeal. The guitar work is good on this song and the lyrics are quite clever, too, as they detail the ride to Joey’s house which was obviously something he thought he was lucky to live through.
Heidi is a Headcase
This was written by Joey and is in the same mould as Ramones classics such as “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” and “Judy is a Punk”. It has a very catchy chorus with Johnny’s riffing playing over the top of it. The whole band is on fire here and hearing this song live must have been something of pure joy.
If the Beach Boys wrote punk rock records, “Touring” would almost certainly be one of those. The song is almost the same as the Ramones’ classic “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” but with different lyrics and a surfin’ rock beat. It’s a song about the band’s love for touring and playing in different cities and countries around the world.
This is an album that many fans of the Ramones saw as a step up, dragging punk kicking and screaming into the 90s. The production is cleaner than a most of the previous albums and it’s plain to hear that they have progressed, musically. It’s punk, but punk for a new era. C.J. Ramone does a spectacular job of stepping into Dee Dee’s shoes.
- The Job That Ate My Brain
- Poison Heart
- Strength to Endure
- It’s Gonna be Alright
- Take it as it Comes
- Main Main
- Tomorrow She Goes Away
- I Won’t Let it Happen
- Cabbies on Crack
- Heidi is a Headcase