The first song on The Huntingtons' new album Plastic Surgery is named "I Wanna Be a Ramone." That pretty much sums it up. Over their past five albums, the New England-based foursome has tried their darndest to carbon-copy Joey and the boys, and for the most part have succeeded. Unfortunately, this latest album does not quite live up to the standards they have set for themselves in the past.
Don't get me wrong. Plastic Surgery is a great album, and is all you've come to expect from The Huntingtons--fast, fun pop-punk songs about school, girls, and, of course, The Ramones. And there are some great songs on the record, most notably the ultra-fast "Moral Threat," the fun-as-heck instrumental "Mutant Monster Beach Party," and the 50s-esque ballad "I'll See You Tonite." The band is also getting better at lyric writing:
downtown and I bought a leather jacket
people think I'm crazy
can sit down and read from Psalms
While these lyrics are obviously not on the level of T.S. Eliot, they accomplish their purpose - they're funny, and an awful lot of fun to listen to.
The problem comes in the album's production. While Plastic Surgery's companion piece, Get Lost, had crisp, smooth production, its keyboards (and too often, its vocals as well) are buried deep in the mix, which results in a very cluttered sound. To be fair, though, most punk fans don't listen to the genre for its production, and Plastic Surgery should appeal to fans of The Huntingtons' previous albums.
It is easy to find one's self in a love/hate relationship with the Huntingtons. They make no bones about being a "wanna-be" band with songs like "I Wanna Be a Ramone" off their second release in less than a year, Plastic Surgery. Although they may sound just like the Ramones, they are doing something with the bubble-gum punk sound that the Ramones themselves never achieved. Plastic Surgery boasts the creativity of Ramone's tunes such as "Rock-n-Roll Radio" while still maintaining heavy, raw guitars that are the driving impulse of Punk Rock.
By the second track, the listener knows that the Huntingtons have gained integrity. The thick sound of "Heartbreak at the Hardy Holly" carries through the album and proves that the Huntingtons have really come into their own. From the driving tunes like "Tell Me Goodnight," "Moral Threat," and "I Don't Wanna Go Out With Her," to the standard pop-punk beats of "Growing Up Is No Fun," the Huntingtons have pushed the Ramones patented sound to the extreme. Plastic Surgery boasts vocals and musicianship that are superior than any other Huntingtons' release. The backing vocals have improved as well. From the "bop-shoo-bops" of "Tell Me Goodnight" to the clean guitar rock-steady love tribute of "I'll See You Tonite," the Huntingtons prove their vocal and musical integrity. They even ventured into the uncharted waters of an instrumental with the spacey-surf-beach bash of "Mutant Beach Party."
The only problem is that it isn't really their music. It's easy to think of a million bands that sound like someone else. It is far tougher to think of a band that sounds just like someone else. Unfortunately, the Huntingtons sound just like the Ramones. And until they can mix in some of their other musical (and even wardrobe) influences, they will still be just another Ramones "wanna-be."