Pitchfork.com called this “Ramonesy,” which is a cool adjective but I don’t hear it in the music so much. This is slower, without the 1-2-3-4 drumbeat, and the guitars are more reverb than buzzsaw. The singer sounds a little like Joey, I guess, though the vocal here is more simmering growl than the usual Ramones howling bark.
The true intersection is of course the word “wanna,” which figures in so many Ramones songs: they did wanna, they didn’t wanna, they as insistent as a three year old kid. This song is conditional where the Ramones were dialectical: the singer is telling us all the things we don’t have to do if we don’t wanna, emphasize on the “if.” We don’t have to be Kurt Cobain, we don’t have to listen to the Smiths or the Germs, we don’t have to date girls or boys. But if we do wanna do these things, it’s okay with him, is the message. Live up to expectations, don’t live up to expectations, it’s your choice, just make sure it is your choice. He builds to some words of slacker wisdom that sound as if they’ve wandered in from a Replacements song:
The only thing that should frighten you is nothing
Kick around, building confidence for something…
Which I guess indicates the timelessness of slacker advice.
I like this song a lot, and it’s turning into one of my favorite in-car singalong numbers, but I think I’d like it slightly more if I didn’t suspect the “you” being addressed in the song was the singer himself. I usually like that double-level object approach, but a rock singer singing about how he doesn’t have to be like other rock singers, sorry, it feels a little insular to me (as opposed to singing to, say, a 15-year high school misfit rock fan, which is my preferred hearing). Or maybe if he’d come around in the last verse to the first person, “I don’t have to be fooled twice if I don’t want to,” slacker advice vaulting into manifesto…but I don’t think manifestos come as easily to young bands anymore. I do like it when he says we don’t even have to listen to him if we don’t want to.
(For the record, here are the things that the Ramones didn’t wanna do: be learned; be tamed; get involved; go down in the basement; walk around with you; grow up. And the things they did: be well; be your boyfriend; sniff some glue; be a good boy; be sedated; dance; live.)