Watching footage of the 'Dolls onstage two years ago at the behest of one of their biggest fans (who was curating the prestigious Meltdown Festival in London) one realized just how vast - and heretofore unsung - their influence truly was. Everyone knows the famous logo: chrome lipstick, scrawling that name across an unseen mirror, but it's more than the great brand. It's not about the androgyny either. Skinny boys were wearing make up long before them. Little Richard. Elvis. It's not even about the music, as the Dolls themselves were always quick to credit 50's R&B numbers or early 60's girl group productions as their own influences. Really, what makes the Dolls so eternal is the attitude - it got into rock's water supply and never left.
The New York Dolls are, simply, the Beatles of attitude. Thirty five years into their existence (thirty one since they disbanded down in Florida in a haze of smack withdrawal and managerial anarchy), with three men down, they can still take your band, pretty for pretty, ugly for ugly, onstage, and now, with the long (long) awaited follow up to 1974's awesome Too Much, Too Soon, on CD too.
And so we have official studio release #3, ONE DAY IT WILL PLEASE US TO REMEMBER EVEN THIS, where the New York Dolls' hallmarks: perfectly mean riffs, deceptively sweet choruses and miles of that infamous attitude meet the 21st Century. What's the same? "I think it's still an up kind of thing," Johansen says describing that quality that makes the Dolls, whatever, whomever and whenever, unmistakably "the Dolls." "It's got a non-defeatist philosophy and attitude. It says 'We can do anything."
And so we move forward. "This is phase two," Johansen says. "It's a new band. A whole new thing." Purist fans may scoff that it's not the Dolls without Johnny, Jerry and Arthur, but both Johansen and Sylvain insist that bassist Sammi Yaffa, guitarist Steve Conte, keyboardist Brian Koonin and drummer Brian Delaney are indeed Dolls now. "We didn't set out to replace anyone," Sylvain reminds us. We're talking about the deceased here, not the dismissed, after all. "They're great guys," Johansen assures those who may be in doubt, "They're part of every aspect of everything. That's what being in a band is all about. I've got them all psychoanalyzed. Very interesting subjects."
Is the world really ready for The New York Dolls 2006? "I don't care if this record is a hit," Sylvain assures, "Just as long as every man, woman and child buys it."
- Marc Spitz