I know what you might be thinking, but there you go: a new Joey Ramone album in 2012. Sounds like a Melrose Ave. sort of travesty; just another shameless cash-in that many of Joey’s fans are more than likely to treat with utmost contempt. Well, no reason for that: I prefer to view …Ya Know? as a brilliant opportunity to hear the great man’s unmistakable voice once again. Well, that and a bunch of previously unreleased songs – some of which (some, mind you) could easily rival anything off your old Ramones records.
If you’re into far-fetched comparisons, I’d say that Syd Barrett’s Barrett would be a good analogy. Joey’s tunes, singing and charisma polished, adorned and brought to life (that includes both production and instrumentation) by a group of high-profile friends and fans. Joan Jett, Mickey Leigh (Joey’s brother, whose unjustly forgotten 80’s band The Rattlers is well worth checking out), Richie Ramone, Daniel Rey, etc. The album compiles 15 songs written by Joey between 1977 and 2000. The results are admittedly patchy: the material is by turns generic and inspired. However, even if it’s something as predictable as ‘Rock And Roll Is The Answer’ (released as a single, inevitably) or ’21st Century Girl’ (you just know how it sounds, right?), it’s still intelligent and incredibly infectious.
…Ya Know? sounds amazing. Neither too slick nor too rough, it comes off crisp, jangly, lush. Maybe a little too overblown in places (Cheap Trick members guest), but not to the extent where it could distract you from the actual songs. The best of which would be the intense power popper ‘Going Nowhere Fast’; the part doo-wop, part bubblegum pop number ‘Party Line’ that is almost as good as The Kinks’ timeless opener off Face To Face (top compliment, by the way); and the poignant, slightly country-tinged campfire classic called ‘Waiting For That Railroad’. Also, there are two songs on this album/compilation every Ramones fan will instantly recognize: ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Life’s A Gas’. The latter is similar to the fantastic Adios Amigos take – though here it is presented in a stripped-down, demo form, and without Joey’s trademark “oh oh yeahs”. The former, on the other hand, is changed quite drastically: no longer a two minute pop punk outburst, it’s now a lengthy, touching and no less effective ballad.
So in the end, it’s this: Joey Ramone? New album? 2012? Obviously you can’t resist a gift like that. Whether you’re a Ramones fan or a casual music lover – it’s worth it. Even with all its flaws (mostly in the melody department). Particularly if you consider that this is definitely one of the very last collections of original songs from a Ramone. The barrel is (almost) empty. Though having said that, who knows?
Released on 22nd May 2012 by BMG Rights