Don't Worry About Me (Sanctuary) by Johnny Angel
Thursday, February 28, 2002
Joey Ramone, the great iconic figure of punk rock, embodied every paradox inherent in that genre. The idea that ugly can be beautiful; that out of musical limitation come nuggets of inspired genius; that power, humor and speed are vastly more important in a vulgar art form than anything as mundane as "good chops." A giraffe of a man with a perennial hair mop in his face and a seemingly limited tenor, Joey was nonetheless a marvel--if he could do it, anyone could.
That sentiment misses the obvious fact that though the Ramones played the most rudimentary pop music ever devised, not everyone can be a Ramone. Which is why this testamentlike disc, the last he recorded, is as much an oddity as the man himself--try though he might to transcend the sonic boom of his old band, most of Don''t Worry About Me is very much a Ramones-sounding disc, albeit a little more reflective.
Opening with a Ramonesified version of Louis Armstrong''s "What a Wonderful World" (keynoted by the lick that underpins "Pretty Vacant") and closing with the eerie title track, the late singer''s expansion as a solo artist is evident in his vocal range more than the material itself. The real high points are "Mr. Punchy," a hilarious send-up of Sell Out-era Who complete with absurd spoken section, and the CD''s topper, "Maria Bartiromo," a love song to the cable-news financial analyst/talking head that also name-checks all of the stocks in Joey''s portfolio. Not only is it certifiably Ramones-catchy, it''s a scream--what other punk rocker would even admit to a Wall Street jones?
Joey outsings Iggy on a Stooges cover, throws a nod to the psych movement on "Like a Drug I Never Did Before," and the rest is not too far removed from the Ramones'' last disc, Adios Amigos--away from the edge and far too professional. All the same, it''s wonderful: not self-pitying or maudlin given his circumstances, but clear-headed and optimistic. Touching and rousing both.