Rinsing away (some) of the gristle from the provocative proto-punk guitars and the cross-dressing, proto-glam strut novelty of the band’s youth, New York Dolls version 2.0 (the band successfully reformed after a 1976 breakup and subsequent 28-year intermission) continue moving forward even as they jubilantly keep one foot firmly planted in the past. Within moments of opening track “Fool For You Baby,” the change in vibes is evident and irresistible as shades of 60’s girl groups, modern indie rock kitchen-sink instrumentation and the Dolls’ own echoing punk rock past click into sync. A major assist from adventurous producer and Louis XIV leader Jason Hill, allows original Dolls frontman David Johansen and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain to wax iconic over some not-so-signature sounds: same trash-punk love-stained attitude, just all dolled up in some brand new threads. The lead track’s endlessly sustained organ and reverb-soaked backing vocals create a sturdy jumping off point for Johansen’s effortlessly off-balance lyrics to truly ring out and bellow across the mix. Just like on the Dolls’ infamous, eponymous debut, the band is as intent on capturing their personalities (see spoken word intro, “Fabulous Rant”) as they are on delivering the goods melody-wise.
“Streetcake” finds the band riffing on classic notions of romantic love and affection by coughing up an oozing sexuality that shines through every instrument and yowling lyric. The trembling lead guitar riffs and blinking piano interlude underlay an endless string of playful double entendres. “Talk to Me Baby” sits at the opposite end of the spectrum as thumping “wall of sound” bombast curls underneath the heart-on-sleeve lyrics and Johansen spills his guts onto the checkerboard floor of some seedy bar, pleading to an unresponsive love interest, “I’m gonna give ya every living thing that you want / Tell me you like it.” The track, complete with a ghostly honky-tonk piano break and huffing woodwinds that melt into the powerchord electric guitars, “Funky But Chic” pokes fun at the Dolls’ early experiments in fashion as it prances along to a throbbing funk-rock stomp, while a cover of Patti LaBelle and the Blue Bells’ “ I Sold My Heart To The Junk Man” conjures a twisted, lovely retro-pop lullaby with hints and honks from numerous eras and genres, almost like we’re being allowed to watch a mash-up projection of Johansen’s favorite sounds and records coming to life. With Dancing Backward in High Heels, the New York Dolls wear their influences and attitudes on their pink, ruffled sleeves and demonstrate that being capitol “I” Iconic doesn’t preclude a group from successfully reinventing and evolving their sound.
Best track: “Talk to Me Baby”
Reviewer Bio - Christopher j Ewing is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles with a girl and a designer dog. He is in a band by himself, has a myspace account at www.myspace.com/wastedpotentialproduction and a production company at (www.wastedpotentialproductions.com) for freelance film, video and journalism work.