CJ RAMONE: “Understand Me?” b/w “Rise Above”: 7”

The word “Ramone” has to be enough to open more than a few doors for anyone who legitimately holds that moniker. Such a person certainly deserves a level of respect for having performed in one of the greatest bands ever. As such, I am intrigued when new musical ventures are attempted by a former Ramone, approaching them with higher expectations than I would many other artists’ new work. At this stage I must admit this is an almost total rewrite of my first version this review I initially felt the 7” was lackluster and insipid, comparing it to a two-week-old lettuce discovered in the fridge. (My first attempt at reviewing this was written on 8thOctober 2014, which coincidentally is CJ’s birthday as well as being the twenty fifth anniversary of me last seeing the Ramones and the only time I saw the band with him on bass.) However, with repeated plays the lead track slowly began to grow on me. There’s no denying that this has some Ramones influences heard in both the guitars and some of the vocals. It’s a catchy number—albeit one which is fairly predictable in terms of chord progressions and song structure—but eventually it found a modicum of favor from my overly picky brain. I can’t be anywhere near so forgiving with the flipside though, despite the involvement of Dez Cadena on guitar and backing vocals. Black Flag’s original “Rise Above” had grit and bile oozing from every crevice, resulting in a track that, to this day, still makes my hairs stand on end. This cover drops all of those qualities and offers nothing more than a bland rendition of a true classic. 

 –Rich Cocksedge (Fat Wreck)