What do Ronnie James Dio, John Denver and Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs have in common? Yup, you guessed it: All have been the subject of tribute albums, one of rock’s most common and least interesting pastimes. At least the Ramones deserve a sonic homage, though this one turns out to be a total embarrassment. Rob Zombie (whose half-speed, half-baked take on “Blitzkrieg Bop” should prompt an investigation into whether Dee Dee Ramone heard it just prior to his heroin overdose last year) headed the project, so it’s no wonder that knuckle-dragging lunks such as Metallica and Kiss dominate the proceedings.
The problem with this approach is obvious: Stadium acts have nothing in common — musically or otherwise — with the Ramones’ beloved club-worn griminess. If Bono and company were Ramones fans, it sure as hell didn’t have a whit of influence on U2’s grandiose, highly polished works d’art. Surprisingly, the spike-coifed sneerboys who owe the greatest debt to the Ramones (Green Day, Offspring) phone in uninspired performances that underscore the dangers of punks gone platinum, something that — thankfully — never happened to the Ramones. Happy Family does hide a few decent tracks in unexpected corners. Garbage’s take on “I Just Wanna Have Something to Do” is terrific, and Pete Yorn’s “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” almost matches the sweetness and wide-eyed innocence of the original. Needless to say, when Garbage and Yorn are the best a record has to offer, you’re in serious trouble.