Album Reviews

Joey Ramone – “…Ya Know?”

on May 21, 2012, 7:59am
yaknow D
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Loads of frontmen have had successful solo careers either in addition to their well-known band or independent of it. Whether it’s Mick Jagger or Peter Gabriel, these rock gods achieved fame because of an ability to transfer over their initial appeal while blazing their own unique musical path. For The RamonesJoey Ramone, the same can’t be said for his second posthumous solo LP, “…Ya Know?”, which, despite some appealing cuts, finds him unable to adequately disassociate himself from his punk brethren.

The LP’s better cuts succeed because of how perfectly Ramones-ian they are. For the group’s trademark slacker jam, there’s “Going Nowhere Fast”, which pairs a guitar with the force of an industrial saw and Ramone’s nasal, ambivalent drawl. As the instrument destroys the world around him, Ramone rattles off the ways in which he’s caused his own downfall, never for a moment showing either fear or pride. Switching it up a bit, the band’s romantic– albeit awkward– side is demonstrated in “What Did I Do To Deserve You”. Ramone’s vocals remain almost the same, though a shred of hope shines through thanks to minor harmonies, vintage handclaps, and a guitar that splits the difference between grime and sentimentality.

“There’s Got To Be More To Life” melds those aesthetics for a truly perfect Ramones dichotomy. The instrumentation is, by far, the album’s sunniest output, with gleeful harmonies squealing and a guitar part that eschews even the slightest bit of filth and irony for the neon-colored embrace of some truly hideous arena-rock pompousness. Yet Ramone swoops into save the day, his voice a perfect blend of worry and doubt, counting all the terrible things in his life (record labels, MTV, etc.) and, in line with his upbringing, hoping there’s more without ever doing anything about it.

As they are, each of those cuts could have been randomly plucked from or inserted into the Ramones’ catalog without anyone knowing the difference either way. Somehow, it feels like a plus to have more Ramones goodness in a world that’s perpetually lacking. However, because of Ramone’s status as the punk king of the Lower East Side, you’d expect a little something more to upset the establishment.

The tracks that fulfill the solo album mandate of seeking new territory present a journey that’s awkward and incomplete. “Eyes of Green” moves into unseen stretches of pub rock-dom, with the usual noise balanced by a jangly keyboard part better suited for Elvis Costello anthems. More depressing, though, is that Ramone’s vocals feel neutered, singing catchy choruses he seemingly hates, with the vitriol apparent with each note.

Posing as a pop singer isn’t as heinous as the crimes committed in “Waiting For That Railroad”, which is dominated by a saccarine acoustic guitar, like someone learning from every country song on the AM dial. Ramone’s vocals take a turn toward the lonesome, but their ache and pain feel forced, expressed in terms Ramone would never create. He’s always been a character, but the portrayal here is as moving as an embarrassing high school play.

Possibly even more damning than the previous two are instances on the record where Ramone and the album handlers’ dedication to his band takes on a sadomasochistic lean, as if mocking the band with underwhelming renditions of classic tunes. “New York City” takes Ramones simplicity to new echelons of bland, repeating ad nauseam his love for the city to another swelling guitar. The more noticeable doo-wop “Party Line” features ultra bubbly female backing vocals. A seemingly sweet twist to complete the song turns what could have been a quaint step in Ramones history into a total piece of satire, with the joke on the dedicated listener.

Tacked on the end are two songs that transcend both the album’s positives and its overwhelming deficits. “Cabin Fever” is a gem of experimentation, burying Ramone’s vocals under oceans of guitar noise and swagger (the kind of production value/trickery “Party Line” could have used). The reworked “Life’s A Gas” also attempts a quaint, strummy sound, this time pulling it off with a pseudo-calypso vibe.

These numbers are perfect examples of what the record should’ve been filled with: new and exciting songs that aren’t too far removed from the Ramones canon. Instead, we get Ramones re-hashings and efforts better left on the cutting room floor or to be reworked vigorously. While there are moments of punk-ish joy, this is a disappointing continuation of Ramone’s genius.

Essential Tracks: “Going Nowhere Fast”, “There’s Got To Be More To Life”, “Waiting For That Railroad”, and “Cabin Fever”

8 comments

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jjramone
May 29, 2012 at 4:56 am

I read many bad reviews about this album…and i don´t really think at least one of the reviewers were ramones fans. This is not an album, it´s a pack of unreleased tracks, and for us ramones fans it´s a pleasure to listen to some unreleased material after 11 years of joey´s death. Plus, i really think there are some great songs and it really keeps the essence alive. In a world full of Justin Bieber´s shit and old bands trying to fight their way through it, i find this album a gift. Joey not dead, ramones not dead.

RobinRamone
May 24, 2012 at 6:07 am

I’ve been listening to this album continuosly for the last 3 days, its great. Better than “don’t worry”,  I think the reviewer does n’t really “get” the ramones or Joey. I hope there’s more fostex 4 track demos found in more cupboards. I think the production is great – best song is “waiting for that railroad”

Bob
May 23, 2012 at 12:19 am

Mick may have lacked popular success, but he’s done some okay stuff solo. “Wandering Spirit” is a solid album all the way through.

I think any Ramones fan would be delighted with this album. I’m a big fan of the Ramones, I was apprehensive and had low expectations, and I honestly think the album is pretty great. “Cabin Fever”, “Going Nowhere Fast”, and “Seven Days Of Gloom” kick all sorts of ass up and down the road. The production has an even sound to me, and I think the classic drum sound that opens “Party Line” is pretty awesome, it sounds like “End Of The Century.” I even like the remake of “Merry Christmas.”

IMHO there’s a lot of good stuff on this album that would fit in easily with the Ramones’ catalog, and I think it’s better than “Don’t Worry About Me.”

Doug Smith
May 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Mick Jagger’s solo “career” has been a disaster. Mentioning him in the same breath as Peter Gabriel in terms of solo success is hilarious. Frankly makes reading the rest of the review pointless as it make one suspect the review has tin ears. Mick does great things with The Stones, if you must mention a solo Stone have the good sense to talk about Keith Richards who has in fact released two stellar solo outings. As noted elsewhere this mess was assembled long after Joey passed, it is what it is. Leave it at that.

Ron
May 21, 2012 at 12:08 pm

nowhere in this review does it acknowledge that Joey Ramone has been dead for eleven years and that he didn’t put this album out.  This is a posthumous release put together from scraps and demos by others. It should at least be acknowledged so that people can put the review in perspective and cut him some slack.

Ajramone
May 21, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Way to go Ron!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sluggrox
May 22, 2012 at 10:57 am

sounds like this review was done by someone who has only listened to this offering by one of the most iconic and fantastic sounds on the planet. we all miss joey, but the loss can live on with these bits that surface. stop trying to win an award with your words and listen to the music

Tim
May 22, 2012 at 9:57 pm

it says “posthumous solo LP” in the first paragraph…

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