Joey Ramone, ‘Ya Know?’ – Album Review
Music nerds like to argue about who started punk rock in the United States — was it Iggy and the Stooges up in Detroit? The New York Dolls in New York? Or the Ramones (also in Gotham), back when CBGB was a place rather than myth, when it came to be that a kid named Jeffry Ross Hyman would become the prince of the Lower East Side, the laconic, iconic Joey Ramone?
The Ramones, whose presidential seal logo have become a part of American pop culture consciousness, lasted well after the savage swell that delivered them into the urine-soaked limelight. While never the most dynamic of singers, Ramone’s sideways-smiled vocals lent the hooks of the most ear-burrowing Ramones tracks — ‘My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down’ or ‘Blitzkrieg Bop,’ for instance– a gritty texture. His limitations were part of what made the band great. The Ramones’ output was staggering, and the fact that the sign for Joey Ramone Place — the stretch of East 2nd Street in New York City, where he used to live — is the most stolen in the city, evidences his continued reach.
Ten years after his death from lymphoma, a second posthumous solo record after 2001’s ‘Don’t Worry About Me’ comes out as suspect — there are symptoms here of a cash grab. ‘Rock and Roll Is the Answer’ is about as surprising as its title suggests, as are rhyming “having it all” and “have a ball.” Ramone, though surely grown, complains of his parents lecturing him — the lyrics are so hackneyed that it’s endearing, like your Grandpa telling you about his Twitter account. The track isn’t unlistenable by any means — you’ve gotta love a gang chorus — but not even the pick scrapes can’t turn a rerun into something new.
Rockabilly rhythms animate ‘I Couldn’t Sleep,’ full of Ramone’s signature “yeah-ahs” and “baby-babies.” With ‘Waiting for the Railroad,’ Ramone turns in a solid effort at a ballad, though nowhere near ‘What Did I Do to Deserve You?’ in which he shows himself at his most goofball romantic. Ramone’s joined by Joan Jett for ‘Party Line.’ Jett, a female analog of the tramp-romantic aesthetic, makes the song more hers than his.
While some of these tracks are solid, they do not distinguish themselves from the vast Ramones catalog. Nothing about ‘Ya Know?’ feels necessary. Being that Ramone’s legend has already been cemented, it needs no further filler- – which is, sadly, so much what ‘Ya Know?’ is.