Ramone

Marking the Identity of an Original Rock and Roll Group of 1975

There's no point pretending that any of this good-to-better material would mean as much if he hadn't died. But give him credit for having the chutzpah and formal smarts to play that hand high-low. Like everything here, the title track, a failed-love plaint framed as a message from the grave, could have stayed on the record if Joey had beaten lymphoma. A bigger winner is the lovably embarrassing Louis Armstrong corndog "It's a Wonderful World," already stiffened by the punkest attack on the record and doubly credible from a mortally ill man. Similarly, the straightforward music and chin-up sentiments of "I Got Knocked Down (But I'll Get Up)," precisely the content his enfeeblement called for, would have remained so if in fact he had gotten up. But they're doubly poignant because he didn't.

On Too Tough to Die, which nobody is forever but the Ramones remained for much longer than anybody gave them, Joey sings a Dee Dee song called "I'm Not Afraid of Life." The Ramones all earned that boast. Joey's earning it at this moment.

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