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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Dancing Backward in High Heels

Initially when I heard that the New York Dolls had reformed I was in a quandary.
One of my all time favourite bands were back, but could they handle their legendary status. Would they soar, or would they implode in the public eye? Or worse. Would they just be a pale shadow of their former selves?
I wanted them to succeed. I wanted the wider world to wake up and realize how magnificently trashy they were. I wanted the second bite at the apple to catapult them from being underground legends to overground rock gods with the wider public realizing just how pivotally important they were to rock and roll.
I needn't have worried.
While they may not have went to number one with a bullet worldwide, they did receive critical acclaim for their studio albums and live.......well live there's no one quite like them.
I've seen them multiple times now and they have provided me with the best of times.
They never disappoint, and the five members clicked together like lost jigsaw pieces. They just made sense together.
Then I heard some whispers that the new album wasn't going to feature Steve Conte or Sami Yaffa.
It was a bit of a worry, but the band had lived up to expectations before and I told myself I should have a bit of faith.
Word came through the grapevine of who might be playing guitar, who might be guesting, who might be playing bass and that a drummer was being looked for in the UK for recording and playing some dates in Newcastle.
Regardless of how accurate the information was it all seemed even more shambolic than usual.
The first thing that sprung to mind for me was that if Steve and Sami weren't on board, and Sylvain was working with Cheetah Chrome on The Batusis, then who was involved in the song writing process?
The second was that without it being a group effort then how could they carry on the sound that they had created from reforming?
My fears were compounded when snippets of each song were released as a taster for the album.
I listened to the snatches again and again and I feared the worst.
Now here we are and I've been listening to the full album and to my ears it's a great David Johansen release, but I just don't get the Dolls vibe from it.
There's some lovely nods to the sixties girl bands, and an exploration into other sounds that he has touched on in the past on his own releases, but it doesn't sound like a New York Dolls album. It may hint at it, but it aint quite there.
Truth be told this album isn't too shabby at all though. In fact I like it, but it's just that I have that nagging little voice saying....but it aint the Dolls.
“I'm so fabulous” is the closest the album comes to capturing something of what I was looking for, but then it sort of slips out of reach when the saxophone is layered over it.
It all just seems less focussed over all than I would have expected, and I miss Steve and Sami's involvement.
I'll hazard a guess and say that some power plays have been going on behind the scenes and with two fifths of the band ousted it has left us with something that is a New York Dolls album in name only.
Some will say that with David and Sylvain on board it doesn't matter who else is backing them up, but this release doesn't lend any credence to that opinion.
I've got to say that I feel disloyal in not raving about this album, but you really have to call it as you see it.
If this was a David Johansen release I would be proclaiming it to be one of his best, but as it's going out under the name of the New York Dolls then it has to be viewed as such.


  1. I agree with the obvious influence of the girl groups...I'm also in the same boat as you in general.

    Seems Sami and Steve were what made the rock in the dolls roll into modern times. But hell, you can listen to that duo on Michael Monroe's new release!

    I'll be a first day buyer...I like the stuff I've heard. Just not what I expected or wanted to hear.

  2. Your last sentence sums it up.
    I'm just transcribing a Steve Conte interview just now. If I have time it might be up tonight, but probably monday.