Joey Ramone: "Ya Know?"

Just gave a listen to Joey Ramone‘s most recent posthumously released solo album, “Ya Know?”  A few thoughts:

Like his first solo record, the songs are very much unlike those from his years with the greatest band to ever walk the face of the Earth, The Ramones.  Joey had a diverse taste in music and he explores it a bit more here.  You’ll hear some doo-wop influences, a bit of 50s & 60s rock and, of course, a love ballad or two.  But what you will not hear is anything that sounds like “Blitzkrieg Bop.”

Something listeners will have to know before listening is that it is doubtful that Joey ever expected the tunes, at least in these incarnations, to be released.  In many cases, they are clearly unfinished and half-assed demos that have been polished up and thrown together on an album.  Where this is most noticeable is in the lyrics.  While Joey Ramone was never exactly known as a great lyricist, what you will hear seems to me to be placeholders.  So repetition from line to line is common, as is corny rhymes.  But if you are a fan of The Ramones, you are probably used to a little bit of that anyway.

The album does feature two different versions of old Ramones songs, however.  “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” and ends with an acoustic version of “Life’s a Gas.”  The former is nothing at all like the original and wasn’t all that great to listen to.  “Life’s a Gas,” though, I really liked, even if it does end abruptly and strangely lingers on through the close of the record with 30 seconds of wind chimes. 

I really enjoyed the first track off the album, a song called “Rock and Roll is the Answer.”  Again, it’s not at all reminiscent of the Ramones-style sound, but it’s got a cool beat a nice guitar riff that had me involuntarily tapping my toes.  And though I may have a few minor quibbles over the arrangement and other production choices, it seems to me to be the most complete and solid tune. 

In the end, this isn’t by any means a great album.    But I enjoyed it because, in my opinion, Joey Ramone is one of the best and most unique vocalists in rock history.  It was a sad day for me when he died, and hearing him sing just about anything again is a pleasure.  Pick it up for that reason alone.  Just don’t expect a collection of great songs because you won’t find them.  But don’t blame Joey.  It’s not his fault that there are still some people out there trying to make a few more dollars off any last shred of his legacy they can find.