About the only thing Eddie Vedder, Metallica, U2 and Tom Waits have in common is that they’re all fans of the Ramones and they’re all featured on We’re a Happy Family: A Tribute to the Ramones.
The disc, due in February, was spearheaded by Rob Zombie and features a variety of acts playing songs by the legendary New York punk band (see “Rob Zombie Finalizes Ramones Tribute With Last-Minute Adds” ). Since the pioneering group relied on three-chord riffs and basic instrument skills, it’s not hard to cover the Ramones, but it’s hard to cover the Ramones well.
Many of the covers on We’re a Happy Family are pretty faithful to the originals. Offspring’s “I Wanna Be Sedated” could almost be mistaken for the Ramones themselves. While the band is a tad tighter than the Ramones typically were, vocalist Dexter Holland sings in a voice that sounds remarkably like Joey Ramone.
Similarly, Rancid’s bombastic “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” is reverentially delivered with the speed and power of a blender on “puree,” and Green Day cleanly blast through “Outsider,” demonstrating they have a grasp for both East Coast and West Coast punk.
Though U2 vocalist Bono sings “Beat on the Brat” in a tender, lovestruck voice, his bandmates tear into the cut with vigor and ferocity. And while Garbage give “I Just Wanna Have Something to Do” a modern electro sheen, they perform the song in a way that’s instantly recognizable.
Not surprisingly, singer/songwriter Pete Yorn plays “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” with passion and sensitivity; surprisingly he rocks it up to the point where it’s just as powerful as Metallica’s version of “53rd & 3rd.”
Other songs on the record bear a less direct resemblance to the Ramones. “Red Hot Chili Peppers” turn “Havana Affair” into a pepper pot of scribbley guitar, meandering basslines and Anthony Kiedis’ distinctive vocals. Rob Zombie reconfigures “Blitzkrieg Bop” into a churning beast of effects and lunging guitars.
Marilyn Manson’s neo-gothic take on “KKK Took My Baby Away” is even more extreme, filled with breathy, moaning vocals, industrial percussion and an effect that sounds like a synchronized military march.
However, the winner of the most unusual Ramones interpretation is Tom Waits, who along with Primus’ Les Claypool converts “Return of Jackie and Judy” into a ramshackle, twisted blues rocker with cigarette-scarred vocals.
Eddie Vedder and punk band Zeke contributed two songs to the album — a melodic but pounding version of “I Believe in Miracles” and a room-shaking rendition of “Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love).”
Other acts with songs on We’re a Happy Family are the Pretenders, Kiss and Rooney