With Joey, Johnny
, and Dee Dee
gone and lounging at the great CBGB's in the sky, it has fallen to Marky Ramone to hold up the legacy of the most influential punk band of all time, and while as second drummer with the Ramones he had only so much to do with the band's sound, he's been making a game effort at keeping the old-school punk flag flying, and some of the fruits of his efforts so far are collected on Start of the Century
. This two-CD set features one studio disc and another recorded live, with the studio set including all the material from two previous albums, 1997's Marky Ramone & the Intruders
and 1999's The Answer to Your Problems?
(the two albums have been resequenced so the material has been shuffled together along with a pair of new tunes). The tracks from Marky Ramone & the Intruders
find Ramone backed by Skinny Bones and Mark Neuman
, who trade off on guitar, bass, and vocal duties while also helping Marky with songwriting and production. Lars Frederiksen of Rancid
produced The Answer to Your Problems?
, with Ramone assisted by a new pair of Intruders, Ben Trokan
(lead vocals, guitar) and Johnny Pisano
(bass, vocals). With Marky in the producer's chair, the results sound a lot like classic-era Ramones stuff (with Bones even adopting a Joey-esque vocal affect), and the cuts with Frederiksen behind the board boast snappier tempos and a more ragged vocal attack, sounding not entirely unlike (surprise!) Rancid. Either way, the songs are pretty good (and occasionally better), and Marky's a great punk rock drummer, holding down the backbeat with strength and aplomb and giving this material the energy and drive it needs. Disc two is a bit more problematic, with Marky sitting in with a Ramones tribute band on a set of 18 tunes made famous by the Brothers from Queens; while the performances seem "live" enough, the crowd noise and Marky's between-song patter sound as if they were added later on, and as long as It's Alive
and Loco Live
remain available, this disc has no reason to exist, though once again Ramone sounds great behind the traps. As a whole, Start of the Century
is fun for Ramones loyalists, but it's hard not to think Marky deserves better than this -- isn't there some punk band out there in need of a great drummer?