There is something unnerving — even ghoulish — about the notion of the legendary Ramones frontman Joey Ramone releasing his “second solo record” a decade after his death. This is especially true when you consider that his first solo release also occurred after he died of lymphoma in 2001. The protracted rollout of a posthumous catalog can’t help but suggest the patina of a cynical cash grab. And yet it is a tribute to Ramone’s overwhelming appeal and enduring enigma that this new release — billed as “a cache of demos and unreleased recordings” — cannot help but raise curiosity. On some level, it may have seemed possible that Joey was lovably weird enough to have a great record stashed away.
Sadly, such hopes for “. . . Ya Know?” are rapidly dispelled during the album’s first track, “Rock And Roll Is The Answer,” which chugs along indifferently like 1980s KISS at its most jaded. The ostensible tribute “New York City” is an unhandsome amalgam of power chords and grindingly obvious sentiments that run to, at their most clever and insightful, “I’m proud to make my home in New York City.”
Ramone was a surpassing talent, and “. . . Ya Know?” isn’t a total loss. Among the fleeting highlights: “I Couldn’t Sleep,” with its Eddie Cochran guitar line and faux Sun Session vocals, is an infectious reminder of the artist’s profound love of early rock and roll.
Still, the takeaway is that these half-finished ideas probably should have been left alone. It’s possible that, given time to work through this material, Ramone might have done something tremendous. Sadly, that opportunity failed to present itself. Now the best thing to do is to allow this legend and his musical vestiges to rest in loving peace.
“I Couldn’t Sleep”, “Life’s A Gas”