Admit It: The Gin Blossoms Are Better Than the Ramones

click to enlarge Admit It: The Gin Blossoms Are Better Than the Ramones
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The Ramones are the one band in the world that is universally beloved. They’re the gold standard, right? Across the entire planet you can easily find fans of the Ramones’ straight-forward musical style. But if you think that the Ramones are better than the Gin Blossoms, well, you just haven’t heard the Gin Blossoms in a while.

Like, why listen to Ramones songs like “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” when you could listen to “Til I Hear It from You” and be transported on a sunbeam to the land of perfect pop bliss? In fact, why listen to “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” at all? The song title tells you everything you need to know, and it’s not like the lyrics expand on the story.

In the past, the Gin Blossoms have been unfairly categorized as lightweight '90s radio filler — cousin to the Wallflowers, brother to the Counting Crows. And if you try to surf a Gin Blossoms wave on YouTube, you’ll soon land on the Goo Goo Dolls, which is just fucking rude, really. The Gin Blossoms make powerhouse pop songs like Big Star or Sloan or even the Manic Street Preachers. They deserve to stand with bands like Teenage Fanclub as peers, not with the embarrassment that is the Goo Goo Dolls.

If you try to stream the Ramones on YouTube, it just plays the same song over and over again on repeat, anyway. Oh, wait, no it doesn’t. Those are actually different Ramones songs, they all just sound the same. My bad.

The Gin Blossoms released entire albums of greatness, but even just the singles were outstanding. Do you remember hearing the simple beginning notes of “Til I Hear It from You” and getting hooked immediately? If a catchier pop song was released in that decade, I have yet to hear it. No other song will get you hyped on that Gin Blossoms vibe like this one.

They also had a mega hit with “Hey Jealousy.” That song starts out great and the drums are delicious (per usual) but then they hit the line where homeboy sings “‘Cause all I really want is to be with you” and their usual Peter Buck-style jangle drops and the fuzz powers up, it’s like Oh yeah, do that Sloan shit right up in my face, G Blossoms! The Ramones don’t give you release like this. They just stand around whining about how they have nothing to do. Boring.

And the first 25 seconds or so of the 1996 single “Follow You Down” were questionable because it sounded like some music from Friends that was morphing into a Blues Traveler song (we were so traumatized by John Popper’s persistent harmonica back in the '90s that even just a few seconds of mouth harp put us on edge), but then when Robin Wilson’s sweet, familiar voice asked “Did you see the sky?” and you knew you’d be safe again. By the time the chorus hit you were already cuddled up under a warm blanket of shimmering tambourine so thick that you almost didn’t notice when that sneaky harmonica walked by again.

The Gin Blossoms have a way cooler history than the Ramones, too. With the Ramones it’s just like: Band forms in NYC, plays some shows at some small club, tours a bit, is bored, breaks up a bunch. Whoop-de-do. That’s so unoriginal. Do you know the history of the Gin Blossoms? First of all, they’re from Tempe, Arizona. Weird. And second: Their origin story is so fucked. Seriously.

The short version is this: A talented but troubled guy named Doug Hopkins co-founded the band in the early '90s. He was the guitarist and main songwriter and he wrote many of the brilliant songs that ended up being hot shit like “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You,” right? He also had a history of depression and alcoholism and, against his instincts, he allowed the band to be signed to a major label. Uncomfortable in this situation, he went on an epic bender and was eventually fired by the band. Then stuff got hella ugly in regards to who owned the songs, too. The rest of the band went on and got famous off of the songs that he wrote, and Hopkins earned a gold record. Then he bought a gun and killed himself.

Do you know what that means? That means that the Gin Blossoms have to play their dead ex-bandmate’s fucking perfect songs at every show! That’s crazy! Many of those songs were pure Doug Hopkins' genius, which means every time they play those songs they must feel like Mike Love’s version of the Beach Boys, you know? It must suck for The Gin Blossoms to have to play a dead guy's good songs forever. What a gross feeling. This is probably why Dave Grohl decided he had to torture us with the Foo Fighters.

The Ramones are always going to win when it comes to legacy, though, on this one strength alone: Linda Ramone. She’s one of the main keepers of the Ramones copyright and she’s a branding genius. Linda is like the Steve Jobs of punk. All of those Ramones-branded products out there? That’s all Linda raking in the dough for the estates of the dead Ramones. (Which also includes her — she was the wife of Johnny Ramone.) She also looks wicked cool 24/7. Respect. Sadly, the Gin Blossoms don’t have even close to that kind of cultural or economic pull, though the Empire Records soundtrack was pretty sick. (Shout out to Coyote Shivers.)

So in every way except for selling themselves, the Gin Blossoms have the Ramones beat. And for real: Your shitty band wishes it wrote a song half as good as the Gin Blossoms’ worst song. Bow down.

The Gin Blossoms are touring from now through the spring. The band hits Delmar Hall on February 21 and is performing its hit album New Miserable Experience in its entirety. Tickets are on sale now and the band is also offering a meet and greet experience, so maybe they’ve finally figured out how to properly cash in after all. Aw, they grow up so fast.

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Jaime Lees

Jaime Lees is the digital content editor for the Riverfront Times.
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