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Joey Ramone 

Don't Worry About Me (Sanctuary)

This final send-off ain't the half-realized piece o' pap it could've been. In fact, it's the album that Joey Ramone was destined to make, even if he hadn't succumbed to cancer: a perfectly agreeable disc of bubblegum punk, not all that different from the last Donnas record or previous Ramones opuses like Brain Drain. Which is why Don't Worry About Me will be a somewhat worthy epitaph.

"Somewhat" because it's not the Ramones -- though Joey did enlist a capable crew of punk veterans to back him up on this swan song, namely Andy Shernoff of the Dictators and the Damned's Captain Sensible, who lends some positively ginchy support to "Mr. Punchy." All over this album, power chords explode to catchy hooks while Joey, who had few peers as a punk-rock vocalist, sings as well as ever. "Venting" is a classic Joey rant on which he moans, "Reality today is much stranger than fiction/A sick fucking world with a violent affliction." "Like a Drug I Never Did Before" is reminiscent of the anthemic quality of the Ramones circa "Don't Bust My Chops." Meanwhile, Joey starts "Searching for Something" with the drumbeat from the Haunted's "1-2-5"-- you expect great things, but the ensuing track is actually more like Radio Birdman's "Love Kills" sung by Lobo.

On the revelatory "I Got Knocked Down (But I'll Get Up)," Joey confronts his illness, lamenting, "It really sucks." This is the most telling glimpse of physical sickness in rock since Van Morrison's "TB Sheets," and it's even more of a bummer, considering that Joey lost the fight. Whether it will hold the same morbid fascination as the Strokes' "New York City Cops" in the next few months remains to be seen.

More by Joe S. Harrington

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