- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2006

New York Dolls

One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This

Roadrunner Records

The New York Dolls’ last studio record, “Too Much, Too Soon,” was released in 1974. Had their first slate of original songs in 32 years been less of a success, rock critics everywhere would have been clamoring to be the first to tag it “Too Little, Too Late.”

It would be a lie to say this current effort was worth the wait; it is doubtful that anyone was really waiting. This is what makes “One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This” a nice surprise — though the Dolls have been playing the occasional live show, their musical legacy is known mostly via artists they influenced, not the Dolls themselves.

If the accompanying “making of” DVD is to be believed, the current album began at the South by Southwest festival a few years ago, when a retooled Dolls lineup announced they were looking for a record deal. Original Dolls frontman David Johansen sings and writes lyrics, and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain (not an original Doll, but a member since the early days) is back.

Guitarist Johnny Thunders, bassist Arthur Kane and original drummer Billy Murcia and his replacement Jerry Nolan are all dead. (Not for nothing is the album dedicated to “the New York Dolls who are no longer around.”)

That the departed Dolls’ absence is not felt too keenly here is a tribute to their competent replacements, to Mr. Johansen’s diverting vocals and most of all to the skills of legendary producer Jack Douglas, who engineered the first Dolls record and went on to produce Aerosmith, John Lennon and Patti Smith, among others. Mr. Douglas and the Dolls craft a clean, bright rock ‘n’ roll sound ornamented with Fender Start fills, roadhouse piano licks and Mr. Johansen’s blues harmonica riffs.

Mr. Johansen’s wit is front and center here. “Dance Like a Monkey” is a mockingly anthem-like paean to intelligent design that may be the only rock song to include a rhyme for “anthropomorphize.”

Songs such as “Punishing World,” “Maimed Happiness” and especially the self-deprecating “Take a Good Look at My Good Looks” feel age-appropriate for the fiftysomething rockers. On the last of these, Mr. Johansen sings, “Take a good look at my good looks/ And close your eyes/ Keep the picture in your mind/ Cause I’ll be gone.”

Despite a few new faces and the fact that Mr. Johansen and Mr. Sylvain have traded in their platform shoes, fright wigs and lipstick in favor of an ever so slightly more conservative style, the sound is welcoming and familiar. The ingredients that made the New York Dolls’ early work so pleasing are here: the raw yet insouciant riffs that augured punk rock; wry lyrics; the taunting vocal posture. Nevertheless, instead of echoing with menace here in the 21st century, when punk rockers are as out-of-date as greasers were in 1972, it sounds quaint and about as revolutionary as a white picket fence.

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