Joey Ramone, Don’t Worry About Me

[This review originally appeared in The Scene.]

Joey Ramone – Don’t Worry About Me (Sanctuary Records)

No matter how much one reveres a musician, there’s something about the posthumous release that smacks of “cash in.�? Joey Ramone’s first solo project, Don’t Worry About Me, gives Ramones’ fans something more than shelf-filler. It becomes obvious when listening to the painfully simple and honest songs here that Joey has crafted his own obituary.

Opening with “What a Wonderful World,�? a song made famous by another old dead guy, Joey’s record sets the chill factor on 10. The remainder of the record will run through a host of emotions and moods. “Stop Thinking About it�? is a simple pop song. “Spirit In My House�? is one of those “horror�? songs like “Pet Semetary.�? And “Venting�? is Joey angry at the world which has only gotten worse since he started making music. “Does anything really ever get accomplished?�? He sneers. “Politicans talking through their assholes / Makes you really wanna go and kill someone.�?

The music is not far from that of the Ramones themselves. The guitars chug on every beat; the arrangements are simple. In terms of production, Don’t Worry About Me is wonderful. Joey’s voice is right up front and everything else fits into its proper frequency. Nothing is overdone. Joey was never one to give himself over to self-indulgence and the record reflects this. On Don’t Worry About Me, though, Joey allows himself the luxury of looking at his own life and lets us in as well. It’s a life filled with humor and pain.

“Maria Bartiromo�? is absolutely hysterical. Joey’s ode to CNBC’s hottest anchor person is delivered in his deadpanned style. “What’s happening with Intel? / What’s happening with Amazon?�? Lines, you would never have thought Joey would utter. “What’s happening with Yah-hoo?�? Like many of the other songs here, context is everything. It’s amusing to hear Joey singing about a stock market analyst, but you get the feeling that in the last couple of years of his life, he was doing a lot of sitting around.

In “Searching For Something,�? Joey sings about getting out of the city for “some spiritual comforting.�? It’s led by an acoustic guitar, but with the same straight-ahead sound Joey’s always had. The song describes in the third person a girl’s search, but when he hits the refrains of “Everybody loves you�? and “Everybody needs you,�? it’s hard not to apply these lines to our sentiments about Joey.

“I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up)�? is downright heartbreaking. In it Joey sings candidly about his illness and his battle to stay alive. “Sitting in a hospital bed,�? he sings over and over again. “I want my life,�? he then repeats. Joey’s always had a knack for delivering the simple and straight-forward as if it weren’t so obvious. When he gets to the chorus (“I got knocked down, but I’ll get up�?), knowing what we know — that he succumbed to his disease last year — it tears your guts out, but you know what Joey means. He means that if there’s a heaven, he’s in it.

Godspeed, Joey.