Hey Ho, Let's Go!
There is no doubting that The Ramones remain an important part of Punk Rock history as well as being a visual and musical icon. Taking influences from 50's and 60's Rock, mixing up the hard riffs of The Kinks and The Stones with the sing-a-long harmonies from The Beach Boys, The Ramones had the ability of breaking music down into it's simplistic form. There is no messing around with layers upon layers of guitars, keyboards and orchestral arrangements, no, what we got was short sharp shots of Punk. Some criticized the band suggesting that there was a limit to the amount of two minute songs that featured only a handful of chords, but what we actually have is a musical grounding that influenced many bands in the future (including the likes of Green Day) and indeed most of the popular bands in the Pop/Punk explosion will cite this band of basin-hairdos, leather jackets and shouts of "Hey Ho, Let's go!" as a major influence. The only surprising thing is that whilst the band produced many great songs they enjoyed very few hits, and at times were overshadowed by sloppy on-stage performances and internal friction (indeed from the early 80's Joey and Johnny refused to speak to each other after the latter 'stole' the former's girlfriend). However although the band has since been entered in to the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame (2002), and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2011), three of the original members have since died.
Joey Ramone was born Jeffry Hyman in 1951 (and died in 2001 having battled with lymphoma for 7 years), and despite being the singer of a band called Sniper, had played the drums since the age of 18, and in fact formed The Ramones as the band's drummer, before swapping places with Dee Dee Ramone and becoming the band's singer (Dee Dee became the bassist). So to this album, Ya Know?, Joey Ramone's second solo album full of unreleased tracks compiled by the late singer's brother Mickey Leigh and named after a phrase that was the staple of Joey's conversation. This album is packed with tunes that do bear a resemblance to The Ramones which is what we would expect.
There is the straight up Rock'n'Roll of I Couldn't Sleep which is musically Iggy Pop's version of Real Wild Child (I'm A Wild One), and the gentle acoustic introspective song Waiting For The Railroad, however it's the familiar sounding blasts of Punk that make you feel like you are seeing an old friend again. First song, Rock'n'Roll Is The Answer has the air guitar riff that will have you swinging your arm around like you are kicking out riffs to a packed club. We have a mix of what is best about Joey's distinctive vocals in New York City that speaks of his love for the city, one of which now bears the sign 'Joey Ramone Place' (one of the most stolen signs in the city!).
There was always something a little tongue-in-cheek about Joey and this is evident in the song, Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight), a touching holiday tune but with some underlining comedy about it. One of the highlights is the chugging Rock of 21st Century Girl featuring the great Joan Jett which is a nice head-nodder of a track and takes us nicely to the thought-provoking, There's Got To Be More To Life. Then we have the slightly more heavy, Cabin Fever which has more Metal drums and deeper guitars. We hark back to the 50's a little more with the heavy echo in the vocals of Party Line, deep saxophone, tapping symbols and female backing vocals. Other tracks like, What Did I Do To Deserve You?, and Eyes Of Green could have been lifted from a number of The Ramones back catalogue, however it's the last song, Life's A Gas that is memorable. It's a catchy acoustic number giving us an upbeat feel and lyrically fitting as the last song of an album from someone who enjoyed life, but is now moved on to another one. "Don't be sad / 'Cause I'll Be There" Joey sings, and this is of course true, within the 14 studio albums and two solo albums, there are enough songs to keep Joey's memory alive.
This is a good album. Style-wise this is nothing ground-breaking, however this is good simple Rock'n'Roll influenced Punk Rock. No frills but hard rocking, the way it should be: 'Gabba Gabba Hey Hey!'