Sunday, May 3, 2009

You're A Prima Ballerina On A Spring Afternoon

David Johansen sang those words on "Personality Crisis," the opening track from the self-titled debut album of New York Dolls in 1973. Twenty-six years later, the Dolls are still making noise (after reuniting five years ago and releasing 2006's comeback album, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This) and on May 5, will have a new album on store shelves.  Cause I Sez So reunites them with the producer of their debut, Todd Rundgren as well as updates a classic track ("Trash") from that album. To better understand the Dolls of present, let's examine five great tracks from previous releases.

1. Personality Crisis (New York Dolls)
This is the track that opened one of the greatest Glam, Punk and Rock albums of the 70's. A guitar intro that cuts through your speakers like a buzzsaw followed by the entire band chiming in. David Johansen doesn't sing as much as he tells you that you have a personality crisis. This song is the type of sleazy swagger and attitude that could only come from five tough New Yorkers in stilletos and makeup and is probably responsible for 9/10 of the Glam Metal scene of the 80's. Fellow New Yorkers, Sonic Youth covered this song almost 20 years later and came nowhere near the attitude that the original exuded.

2. Human Being (Too Much Too Soon)
Distorted guitar combined with a sloppy yet clean sounding blues guitar help make this closing track a memorable one. Aside from Johansen's vocals and a saxophone, the rest of the instruments are almost buried in the mix compared to intensity of the guitars. This track is one of the best examples of what makes the Dolls such a great and memorable band. It's pure chaos yet it's so beautiful like a train wreck that shoots out rainbows instead of catching fire. The track, itself, is the best example of their second record: interesting and very disjointed.

3. Chatterbox (Too Much Too Soon)
Jagged, bluesy guitars, a simple yet tight rhythm section and an almost Jagger like vocal delivery make this track one of the highlights of their second album. The song is one of the most bad ass tracks of the band's career. The song is just 100% attitude and a nasty one at that. The guitar doesn't solo as much as it shrieks before falling back in line with the other instruments. Extra points for being one of the best tracks on the record. Trust me, the second half of the album will easily make you forget about the first half.

4. Looking For A Kiss (New York Dolls)
"When I say I'm in love, you best believe I'm in love. L-U-V." Definitely a tamer song musically compared to other tracks, "Looking For A Kiss" is still very much a New York Dolls song. A pounding rhythm section, the sloppy guitars, and the half sung/spoken vocals are all there. This time, it's wrapped in a neat, tighter package that showcases their Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Rolling Stones influences. This is the track that proves that David Johansen and Johnny Thunders were the Jagger and Richards of both Punk and 70's New York sleaze.

5. Dance Like A Monkey (One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This)
With only Johansen and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain as the surviving members, they hit the studio with a new lineup and made an album that sounds like what the band would sound like today. This track is one of the closest to old school Dolls while still sounding like a new song. Granted, the sloppy guitars are gone but it still retains the fun and swagger that only this band could pull off. Also, to hear Johansen sing "swing your monkey hips" is worth a listen on its own.

Personally, I'm still excited about the fact that New York Dolls are still around. At first, it just seemed like it would be a one-off album and tour but they still have it in them to keep going and why the hell not. They're not a nostalgic act nor are they staying together for money. They still make great songs and aren't trying to re-invent their past. The makeup and heels have disappeared but let's hope the Dolls do not disappear after another second album .

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