Monday, August 19, 2013

COMMANDO-- Leave Home 12

This deceptively contradictory rocker pitted two already prevalent thematic terrains into an anthem so absurd as to border on dadaist. JOHNNY's patriotic militarisms clash head on with the Germanic obsessions of DEEDEE's youth, resulting in a concoction which finally defies conventional consideration. (The undercurrent of Naziism suggested by, for instance, the line pertaining to culinary orthodoxy, seems at odds with the then still-current reference to the Vietnam conflict, despite the trooper's stated willingness to travel as far as both countries' capitals.) The unimaginative machismo of the verses is turned inside out by a bizarre chorus cataloguing a numbered list of personal 'rules,' one of the band's most memorable lyrical conceptual gimmicks. Nonsensically, adherence to the law of 'der Vaterland' is equated with the importance of a kosher diet, the appeal of capitalist separatism, and (undercutting the warmongering combativeness of the song most definitively) an infantile, reverential respect for 'mommy.' Fortunately, the vocals are so hilariously powerful, and the melody's blistering arrangement so irresistibly performed that the ludicrous turns taken end up seeming completely moot. In fact, the relentless force of the song feels totally fitting to the paramiltary singlemindedness of the dubious narrative's improbable mercenary protagonist.

Musically, the stunningly primitive creation is simplistic (yet, versatile) even by the RAMONES' early standards. (Years later, as the band became grew determined to nostalgically recapture their primal strengths, they would often to revert to raw, two part verse/chorus bashers such as this.) Indeed, the heavy verse riff, which alternates between two keys, would soon be retooled for GO MENTAL on ROAD TO RUIN. As well, the four chord chorus melody would be unapologetically recycled in the next decade on ANIMAL BOY as the primary core of APEMAN HOP.

TOMMY achieves a dense, dark mix which perfectly matches the band's merciless pulse. An impatient DEEDEE starts thumping his bass even before the introductory count is completed, a pulverizing performance by JOHNNY sounds more like an army of guitars instead of just one, and TOMMY's switch to a half time cymbal count for the verses (quickly becoming a common tactic as the RAMONES' music grew steadily faster overall) is confidently seamless. But despite the personal resonance probable throughout the lyrics for DEEDEE (whose father, after all, was a career military man that stationed his family in battered Berlin, and was certainly not above dominating his family with cruelly martial doctrines), the major triumph finally belongs to JOEY, who remarkably wraps his pipes around a guerilla goon persona, charging through the chorus' imperious proclamations, and flinching not an inch at the jibes towards the jewish which permeate the track. (At least there can be little doubt that his mother Charlotte Lesher received the 'nicest' treatment, as she initially allowed the embryonic group to have their first practices in the back storeroom of her art gallery.) Whatever the debatable political correctness of the thematically wobbly compositional end result, the transformation of the gangly lead singer into a fearsome soldier of fortune (even for humour's sake) is emblematic of the culture of reinvention so firmly at the heart of the burgeoning punk movement's individualism-- as it had existed, truthfully, throughout the story of Rock 'n' Roll.


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