There aren’t many people on the planet who can credibly claim the surname Ramone. All of the band’s original members have passed on, leaving behind only a small, elite few to have taken the stage with Joey and Johnny. CJ Ramone is one such man. His new album, The Holy Spell… is a blast of new school pop-punk from the man who has earned his degree from the old school.
The title of the album The Holy Spell… is an allusion to the power of music and the inexplicable yet impactful spell it casts. With that in mind, it’s safe to say CJ Ramone earned his rock n’ roll stripes with a fellowship of leather jacket-clad Gandalfs. There’s a certain old-fashioned rock n’ roll intelligence to CJ Ramone’s pop sorcery, supplying a touch of maturity to a genre that often feels anything but.
The power chords are heavy and high-charged on The Holy Spell…, delivered in a steady whir of thrashing down strokes that would surely please Johnny Ramone. CJ has a knack for dynamic melody, and proves over the course of the album’s twelve tracks that there is still joy to be found in not only the music he creates, but also in the music that influences him to this day. Included are also a couple covers of songs from the days of his childhood—Dave Edmunds’ “Crawling from the Wreckage”, and Webb Pierce’s 1953 hit “There Stands the Glass”. This love of oldies and classic country, pervasive throughout The Holy Spell…, finds a strange yet comfortable place within the vibrancy of CJ Ramone’s buzzsaw blitzkrieg.
Hooks are a strength of CJ Ramone’s, and they’re peppered liberally throughout. The album starts on a poppy foot, with opening track “One High One Low”, followed by “This Town”, both of which share the poppy energy you’d expect. “Waitin’ on the Sun” should excite all fans of the Ramones-core sound, while “Hands of Mine” is a complete surprise, a mellow, country-tinged track that stands in refreshing contrast to the near-relentless distortion that precedes it.
The final track of the album, “Rock On”, is a tribute to CJ Ramone’s friend and collaborator, Steve Soto of the Adolescents, who passed away last year. It is a touching end note, and proves that the power of music’s ‘holy spell’ goes beyond just noise and beats crackling from a speaker. It has the power to be the foundation of friendship, camaraderie, and human connection.