Wednesday, February 6, 2002 @ 11:51 AM
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It's almost impossible to separate the sorrow over the passing of this iconic figure from a reading of his last recorded musical testament, but here goes. Fact is, Joey and his former band hadn't made a decent recording in ten years and so any expectations of excellence had to be tempered by reality. But this solo disc has some amazing highs and some truly funny experiments that balance off the half-finished sounding semi-songs that weigh it down (much as they weighed down the Ramones last disc of original material, Adios Amigos).
Opening with a cover of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" (which is led in by the riff from "Pretty Vacant" of all things) in a Ramones'ed out style, it's clear that the beloved front-man of the inventors of punk-rock was a lovably sappy sentimentalist at heart (and was allegedly Pops Armstrong's weed-smoking pal back in Queens where both of these American legends resided in the '60's). From here it gets weird and then lost--"Mr. Punchy" is a goofy parody of the Who, complete with harmonized "la-la's", Keith Moon drum fills and Townshend falsettos and it's captivating in its humor and verve, the two elements that raised the Ramones above their peers for 25 years. Joey's love song to financial news talking head Maria Baritromo is another master stroke--what punk rocker would name check the names of the securities in his or her portfolio with a straight face? No one but the great one, of course.
The bummers are the half-inspired stabs at punk-lite like "Venting" and the way-too-faithful rendition of the Stooges "1969", even though Joey does Iggy better than whichever tattooed phony of 2002 would dare. But they're easily over-looked in the great scheme of things--like DeeDee Ramone's masterful 1995 solo outing I Hate Creeps Like You, this solo disc proves that the masters of the style could do more than cut it outside of that rigid format without moving too far way from it. As a farewell, it's stirring--of course it isn't Ramones or Rocket to Russia, but how could it have been? Joey lives, OK?