Thursday, August 1, 2013


Although superficially displaying the trappings of typical romantic lyrical longing (especially encased in LEAVE HOME's obligatory stab at pure pop), upon closer inspection SWALLOW MY PRIDE is a revelatory self portrait review of the band's (mis)fortunes at the sophomore LP point. There is hardly a single line of lyric which doesn't seem to directly reflect situational resonance for at least one band member. JOEY's unconquerable optimism, TOMMY's displeasure at being taken for granted, JOHNNY's desire for militaristic control, DEEDEE's downbeat impatience-- all manage to get touched upon in the very few lines of lyric, and each mentioned personalty trait was a very short time away from finding full flower.

'Two years' in-- the specific passage of time has relevance-- the RAMONES' career seemed already stalled in a purgatory perched between obscurity and substantial success. The spiritual sons of the STOOGES and NEW YORK DOLLS should have known better than to expect too much too soon, but clearly the tantalizingly tangible next level, within reasonable proximity but insurmountably ungraspable, was beginning to solidify frustrations.

Commercial enough to be released as a 45 after the bizarre, out of nowhere appearance (and subsequent addition) of SHEENA IS A PUNK ROCKER, but undistinguished enough to remain a likely component of the group's live set, SWALLOW MY PRIDE is an appealing exercise around the 1-4-5 in the key of B. (The bridge predictably drops down to Gsharp/Aflat, but a stricter adherence to genre rules probably would have dictated that this should have been a minor chord.) Opening aggressively-- perhaps too aggressively for a potential single?-- then switching to a now-familiar muted 'clicking' guitar verse, the track is potently melodic; especially the soaring choruses. However, problematic minor details detract from the overall knockout. Some lines of verse have a few too many words, forcing odd phrasing from JOEY, and although the background vocals are impressive for the choruses, they are distractedly and less effectively tagged on in other places. The middle section repetition of 'oh yeah's isn't a bad idea, but the heavy echo and reverb only accentuate the thematic inappropriateness of JOEY's bratty delivery. (This section has been almost completely overhauled from the original version appearing on early bootlegs, where British Invasion-style 'come on's are repeated over a standard punk lick.)

Proof of tunesmithing aptitude assumed to be outside their ability, but likely to be underrated next to their early undeniable classics, SWALLOW MY PRIDE remains an effort apt for confused appraisal in the RAMONES' ouvre. It certainly does not match up to either LISTEN TO MY HEART, the debut's grade A pop confection, or the forthcoming LOCKET LOVE, an improvement of similar musical ideas destined to appear on ROCKET TO RUSSIA. Still, it was years before TOMMY would decide against facing another 'winter' with the band, before JOEY's persistent invocations of 'real cool times' would be touched with desperation's tinge, before DEEDEE would be overtaken by the muddle of grimmer looking days, and before JOHNNY's amorous actions would threaten to undermine the 'ship's stability, necessitating a uniform tight-lipped-ness. The song endures as a reassuring snapshot of group solidarity in the face of problems that, for the moment, loomed primarily only as foreshadowing.


No comments:

Post a Comment