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.