New York Dolls : Dancing Backwards In High Heels
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New York Dolls : Dancing Backwards In High Heels

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The release of a new New York Dolls record cannot avoid being the subject of intense debate: should, like the purists would have us believe, ‘Dolls David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain had the good grace to leave the New York Dolls moniker in its historical resting place, alongside the decaying corpses and rich musical legacies of Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan, Arthur Kane and Billy Murcia? Or, as the only survivors of one of America’s seminal punk rock outfits, were the duty bound to keep the ‘Dolls flame burning, whatever the costs?

While it’s fair to say the current incarnation of the ‘Dolls haven’t scaled the heights of the original band, Sylvain and Johansen are, against the odds of probability and taste, still creating solid music. The latest ‘Dolls record, Dancing Backwards In High Heels (named after a description of Ginger Rogers) is a good, if not consistently great, record.

The prevailing tone of the record invokes the ’60s garage mentality of yore, augmented with a Motown pop sensibility: opening track Fool For You Baby is Holland-Dozier-Holland on the Lower East Side, Streetcake is a sprightly pop song, its buffed edge tainted only by Johansen’s gravelly tones. The catchy I’m So Fabulous snarls with disdain at the pretenders cluttering the New York cultural skyline, Talk To Me Baby could be a lost John Lennon track from 1978 and the romantic whimsy of Kids Like You illustrates the soft side of punk rock.

The rumble and tumble of Round And Round She Goes walks a fine line between Bill Haley and The Jam’s A Town Called Malice, the lushYou Don’t Have To Cry invokes the spirit of You Can’t Throw Your Arms Around A Memory (with a subtle nod to Neil Diamond). While I Sold My Heart To The Junkman transposes junkie discourse to a quaint ’50s rock’n’roll soundtrack, Baby, Tell What I’m On labours without purpose. Funky, But Chic (which dates back to a Johansen solo record in the late 1970s) is wrapped in a dance-savvy Nile Rodgers cloak and End Of The Summer is as light, fluffy and enjoyable as a cocktail at a Caribbean resort.

These aren’t the New York Dolls of yore, but nor does it purport to be so. In its desire to progress the ‘Dolls legacy, Dancing Backwards In High Heels takes us back to the past, before the ‘Dolls existed to give show us the music and spirit that allowed the band to live.

Best Track: I’m So Fabulous

In A Word: Lush

If You Like These, You’ll Like This: THE SUPREMES, THE 101ERS and DAVID JOHANSEN’s solo material.

BARRY RICHARDS