Here’s the thing about the Ramones’ ninth album, ‘Animal Boy,’ which was released in 1986: Even though it falls in the middle of the group’s dismal period that continued until their end, it includes one of their very best songs. Like, ever. The band was on a downward spiral in the mid-‘80s, as they rushed to keep up with music fans’ fickle and changing tastes. Many of the people who gravitated toward the Ramones in the ‘70s because of their two-chord, two-minute assaults were beginning to realize that way too many of the band’s songs sounded the same.

The Ramones must have noticed this too, since 1984’s ‘Too Tough to Die’ juggled everything from bouncy synth-pop to 100-miles-a-minute hardcore punk. It was their best album in years. So when they returned to the studio to make ‘Animal Boy’ with producer Jean Beauvoir (who did some time in the Plasmatics), they extended their musical palette even more, expanding the sonic landscape with a shimmering sound mix rarely found on Ramones records.

‘Animal Boy,’ which celebrates its 27th anniversary today, is hit and miss – mostly miss. ‘Somebody Put Something in My Drink’ is close enough to classic Ramones to lead off the album. And the closing ‘Something to Believe In’ is the closest the band got to a universal anthem. But the undisputed highlight of the record is ‘My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down,’ which was originally released as a U.K.-only single the previous year as ‘Bonzo Goes it Bitburg,’ inspired by President Reagan’s visit to a Nazi cemetery in Germany. It’s the band’s last great song.

But it didn’t do much to bolster the album’s sales or the Ramones’ slow but steady decline. ‘Animal Boy’ made it to No. 143, pretty much average for them at this point. Without airplay – the Ramones were never pop-radio material, and ‘My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down’ was way too political for anyone at commercial stations to touch in 1986 – the album disappeared and eventually went out of print. And the next decade was filled with one lackluster record after another. But at least they had one last shot of greatness.

Listen to the Ramones' 'Animal Boy'