What’s The Rockbrat Listening To Today? NEW YORK DOLLS – Dancing Backward In High Heels (2011)

Well, the jury is back in, and the verdict is unanimous – the Dolls should still be around in 2011 and the new album, “Dancing Backward In High Heels” gets the thumbs up from long time Dolls fan Cowboy Col. Let me call a spade a spade though – it took me a few listens to really get into this album, but now I can actually hear why Sylvain is so enthusiastic about it. The Dolls created punk rock before there was a term for it. Building on the Rolling Stones’ dirty rock & roll, Mick Jagger’s androgyny, girl group pop, the Stooges’ anarchic noise, and the glam rock of David Bowie and T. Rex, the New York Dolls created a new form of hard rock that presaged both punk rock and heavy metal. So with that in mind, when I hear a new Dolls album, I kind of expect to hear more of the trashy early 70’s NYC style rock n roll of the ‘Personality Crisis’, ‘Trash’, ‘Human Being’ and ‘Pills’ variety. The most distinctive aspect of the original band’s sound was Thunders guitar and Johansen’s vocals. When the band got back together again in 2004, Steve Conte’s great guitar work channelled Thunders, as evidenced on the bands’ studio comeback album from 2005, ‘One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This’. It was a genuine nod to the past and was given a clean bill of health by Cowboy Col. I saw them live in early 2007 (with both Steve Conte and Sammi Yaffa) and they were great live. Played live, the songs from that album were great. 2009’s studio album, ‘Cos I Sez So’ was strong, but I didn’t think it was as consistent as ‘One Day’. To look at the new album, one has to understand the past. In 75, when Thunders and Nolan split from the Dolls, Johansen and Sylvain carried on for a further two years under the Dolls name, and then played together as the David Johansen group. This album picks up from that period. The “girl-group gone bad sound” is completely gone and, for this release, the band goes for a shimmering, reverb-heavy AM-Radio doo-wop sound crossed with a few tracks of R&B stomp. This isn’t quite the greasy R&B of the ’76 era Sylvain/Johansen era Dolls, but with songs like “Funky But Chic” (which started life as a Dollette’s song) and a cover of Patti LaBelle and The Blue Belle’s “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman”, the Dolls haven’t moved far from their roots. Tunes like ‘Round And Round She Goes’ are excellent, as are ‘I’m So Fabulous’ with it’s trashy guitar riff and harmonica/sax , the song on the album that is closest to the 73 ear Dolls ads you’ll get. Johansen’s voice still sounds great. For two guys now into their 60’s – I say all power to Sylvain and Johansen.

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