Personal and the Pizzas - Personal and the Pizzas

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:8 Release Date:2016-12-02

Comprised of a half dozen or more previously released singles and some new tracks, this eponymous album is something of a best of from this long-standing New Jersey outfit. Before going on, full disclosure; I reserved this because I heard the retro 60s arpeggio opening to the song “Joanie” and listened a bit closer. Then I heard the singer (Personal Pizza himself) doing his best Joey Ramone singing, “When I see you walking down the street, I just want to get on my knees, and eat out you.” Hail, hail rock and roll.

Now, it’s hard to take this album seriously because it’s such an obvious Ramones rip-off, but then it dawned on me; isn’t there an endless stream of bands who started off trying to sound exactly like their heroes? From the first recordings of The Rolling Stones and down through the myriad branches of that family tree, groups have been paying homage through the sincerest form of flattery for over half a century. So then, why not a band that bows at the altar of The Mighty Ramones?

Granted, this kind of homage walks the line of trademark infringement, frequently (and gleefully) pissing on it at times. The songs rarely jump out at you, but rather sound like a dozen unreleased, middling demos. Furthermore, far too many songs are exact melodic duplicates of Ramones’ tracks, the only change being the lyrics. And the whole package is here; vocal delivery, jackhammer guitars, slamming drums, and the same devotion to doo-wop that defined the Ramones. Hell, these guys don’t ever try to be original on the non-musical end, either. The gatefold of the disc is a pizza version of the famous Tex-Mex dinner photo inside of ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres. The band happily proclaims their photo “dethrones” the ZZ Top photo. I guess in terms of food porn they succeed, but in the end, who cares? It’s hilarious and shows serious brass balls.

With track titles like “Brain Damage,” “Dead Meat, “I Want You,” and “Concentration Camp,” and goofy band member names like Personal, Pony Boy, Nikki Carwash, or my fave, Gary with a circle around the A, P&tP stay true to the formula all down the line. It isn’t all Gabba-Gabba-Hey choruses however, although they do chant “Going, going, going” on “Concentration Camp” just like that aforementioned infamous line. There’s also a dose of early 70s glam rock ala Alice or Johnny Thunders, especially on tracks “Death Threat” and “Joey Quit the Pouch.”

Combing the glam sleaze of The New York Dolls with the minimalist adolescent sledgehammer of The Ramones, Personal and the Pizzas dare to ape their idols in the most blatant and endearing fashion. This won’t likely have you tossing out your warped and scratched copy of Rocket to Russia anytime soon, but it may remind you of the strength and resiliency of rock’s foundations. A band like Personal and the Pizzas may do nothing more than turn someone on to the band’s influences, thereby opening up new discoveries that endlessly unravel with each newly peeled layer. In the end, isn’t that the beauty of the unique symbiotic relationship between rock artists and their fans? Rock and roll is nothing if not a hand-me-down art form; simultaneously derivative and original, amorphous yet firmly rooted in classic musical genres. Armed with what I consider this fundamental truth and bands like Personal and the Pizzas, I’m convinced beyond a doubt that anyone who sardonically rolls his or her eyes and moans; “Rock is dead” is really just an uninformed asshole.

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