didn't even know these guys had reformed
well Johansen and Sylvain anyway
not your mom and dads New York Dolls
not as bad as I feared, but still misses the buy list

Grade - 1.5

released Mar 15th, 211

from the album - Streetcake - 2.0


from all music


The New York 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. Their drug-fueled, shambolic performances influenced a generation of musicians in New York and London, who all went on to form punk bands. And although they self-destructed quickly, the band's first two albums remain among the most popular cult records in rock & roll history.

All of the members of the New York Dolls played in New York bands before the band formed in late 1971. Guitarists Johnny Thunders and Rick Rivets, bassist Arthur Kane, and drummer Billy Murcia were joined by vocalist David Johansen. Early in 1972, Rivets was replaced by Syl Sylvain and the group began playing regularly in Lower Manhattan, particularly at the Mercer Arts Center. Within a few months, they had earned a dedicated cult following, but record companies were afraid of signing the Dolls because of their cross-dressing and blatant vulgarity.

Late in 1972, the Dolls embarked on their first tour of England. During the tour, drummer Murcia died after mixing drugs and alcohol. He was replaced by Jerry Nolan. After Nolan joined the band, the Dolls finally secured a record contract with Mercury Records. Todd Rundgren -- whose sophisticated pop seemed at odds with the band's crash-and-burn rock & roll -- produced the band's eponymous debut, which appeared in the summer of 1973. The record received overwhelmingly positive reviews, but it didn't stir the interest of the general public; the album peaked at number 116 on the U.S. charts. The band's follow-up, Too Much Too Soon, was produced by the legendary girl group producer George "Shadow" Morton. Although the sound of the record was relatively streamlined, the album was another commercial failure, only reaching number 167 upon its early summer 1974 release.

Following the disappointing sales of the Dolls' two albums, Mercury Records dropped the band. No other record labels were interested in the group, so the Dolls decided to hire a new manager, the British Malcolm McLaren, who would soon become famous for managing the Sex Pistols. With the Dolls, McLaren began developing his skill for turning shock into invaluable publicity. Although he made it work for the Pistols just a year later, all of his strategies backfired for the Dolls. McLaren made the band dress completely in red leather and perform in front of the U.S.S.R.'s flag, all of which meant to symbolize the Dolls' alleged communist allegiance. The new approach only made record labels more reluctant to sign the band and members soon began leaving the group.

By the middle of 1975, Thunders and Nolan left the Dolls. The remaining members, Johansen and Sylvain, fired McLaren and assembled a new lineup of the band. For the next two years, the duo led a variety of different incarnations of the band, to no success. In 1977, Johansen and Sylvain decided to break up the band permanently. Over the next two decades, various outtakes collections, live albums, and compilations were released by a variety of labels and the New York Dolls' two original studio albums never went out of print.

Upon the Dolls' breakup, David Johansen began a solo career that would eventually metamorphose into his lounge-singing alter ego, Buster Poindexter, in the mid-'80s. Syl Sylvain played with Johansen for two years before he left to pursue his own solo career. Johnny Thunders formed the Heartbreakers with Jerry Nolan after they left the group in 1975. Over the next decade, the Heartbreakers would perform sporadically and Thunders would record an occasional solo album. On April 23, 1991, Thunders -- who was one of the more notorious drug abusers in rock & roll history -- died of a heroin overdose. Nolan performed at a tribute concert for Thunders later in 1991; a few months later, he died of a stroke at the age of 40.

In 2004, former Smiths vocalist Morrissey -- who was once the president of a British New York Dolls fan club -- invited the surviving members of the New York Dolls to perform at the 2004 Meltown Festival, a music and cultural festival that was being curated that year by the singer. To the surprise of many, David Johansen, Syl Sylvain, and Arthur Kane agreed to the gig, with Steve Conte (from Johansen's solo band) standing in for Thunders and Gary Powell from the Libertines sitting in on drums. The group's set was well received by critics and fans (and was recorded for release on DVD and compact disc), which led to offers for other festival appearances, but only a few weeks after the Meltdown show, Kane checked himself into a Los Angeles hospital with what he thought was a severe case of the flu. Kane's ailment was soon diagnosed as leukemia, and he died only a few hours later, on July 13, 2004, at age 55.

With Sam Yaffa (of Hanoi Rocks) on bass, the remaining Dolls played a hometown tribute to their fallen brothers at Little Steven's International Underground Garage Festival in New York City on August 14, 2004, reuniting again (this time with Brian Delaney on drums) in 2006 for the all-new CD/DVD One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. The Todd Rundgren-produced 'Cause I Sez So appeared on Rhino in 2009. A fifth studio album, Dancing Backward in High Heels, featuring both Johansen and Sylvain and produced and mixed by Jason Hill, appeared from 429 Records early in 2011.

Album Review

On their third studio album since reuniting the New York Dolls in 2004, David Johansen and Syl Sylvain have finally begun acknowledging the obvious -- this is not the same band that traipsed in and burned out in a blaze of glory in the '70s. Not only are Johansen and Sylvain the only survivors from the band's original lineup, their efforts to re-create the band's original sound and impact have been well-meaning and entertaining without making much of an mark. 2009's ‘Cause I Sez So found them drifting away from the classic sound of the Dolls, and 2011's Dancing Backward in High Heels in many respects represents a clean break; Steve Conte, who took on the Johnny Thunders role in the reunited band, is gone, and with Frank Infante of Blondie in his place, on these sessions the guitar plays a lesser role in the arrangements, with keyboards and sax dominating many of the tunes. And while this album doesn't entirely abandon the Dolls as we knew them, it recalls the original group's influences, rather than the Dolls themselves, most notably classic ‘60s rock, girl group sounds, and vintage R&B rather than the beautifully shambolic hard rock of their salad days. So Dancing Backward in High Heels isn't the New York Dolls as we once knew them, though it does sound very much like the work of David Johansen and Syl Sylvain, two guys close to 60 years of age who clearly still love rock & roll but have a different attitude about it than they did in 1972. The witty attack on out of towners in the Big Apple of "I'm so Fabulous" rings true coming from these guys, the night-life tales of "Round and Round She Goes" suggest they're still up for a rowdy good time, "Streetcake" and "You Don't Have to Cry" confirm David and Syl haven't forgotten how to write a great pop tune, and the cover of "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman" is heartfelt and funny, just as it should be. And if "Funky But Chic" was reworked from Johansen's first solo album, the cocky strut and swagger of the tune still sounds fresh and engaging in the 21st century. While the New York Dolls struggled to balance past and present on their previous reunion albums, Dancing Backward in High Heels is a product of the here and now as defined by two guys following their muse in their own way, which is just what they should be doing at this stage of the game.

Track Listing

1 Fool for You Baby (Dom Dom Dippy) Johansen, Sylvain 2:37
2 Streetcake Johansen, Sylvain 3:18
3 Fabulous Rant 0:25
4 I'm so Fabulous Johansen, Sylvain 2:26
5 Talk to Me Baby Johansen, Sylvain 3:03
6 Kids Like You Johansen, Sylvain 3:51
7 Round and Round She Goes Johansen, Sylvain 3:46
8 You Don't Have to Cry Hill, Johansen, Sylvain 3:03
9 I Sold My Heart to the Junkman Rene, Rene 2:24
10 Baby, Tell Me What I'm On Johansen, Sylvain 3:57
11 Funky But Chic Johansen, Sylvain 4:01
12 End of the Summer Johansen, Sylvain 4:17