Thursday, January 3, 2013
'Cause I Sez So - The New York Dolls
'Cause I Sez So
The New York Dolls
Atco RI 518926
This was the second Dolls album following their reformation in 2004. I picked it up in a bargain bin, not expecting much and I pretty much got what I paid for. I don't think I'm being cynical when I suggest that the main reason this record exists is money. Since 3 of the 5 members from their classic line up are dead, it is really a David Johansen and Sylvain Mizrahi album with three new guys using the Dolls' name to sell records. In all fairness, two of the new guys, guitarist Steve Conte and bassist Sami Yaffa do contribute to some of the songwriting but no one is going to mistake them for Johnny Thunders. Johansen and Mizrahi wrote the bulk of the album including the opening track, "Cause I Sez So," which is full of promise. It features some of the swagger and rock energy of the original band as Johansen vents his spleen about surveillance cameras which he likens to Orwell's Big Brother. It is my favorite song on the album. It goes downhill from there. The generic hard rock Johansen/Yaffa cut "Muddy Bones" is a diatribe about the crummy state of the world. The energy level drops with the obnoxious Johansen/Conte tune "Better Than You." In the song Johansen defends his girlfriend who is "a brazillion times better than you." If she really likes his music as much as he claims, that is probably not true. I find the song boring which is also true of the next song "Lonely So Long." The original Dolls were anything but boring. The love song "My World" is better. It has a more distinctive melody and a little velocity but it sounds more like Bruce Springsteen than the New York Dolls. The bluesy Johansen/Conte track "This is Ridiculous" reminds me of Johansen's solo work. The song is the plaint of a guy down on his luck. It is one of the better songs on the album and features a terrific vocal from Johansen. Side two opens with "Temptation to Exist" by Johansen, Yaffa and Conte. The song has a bit of a retro feel to it with a nice romantic atmosphere. Unfortunately it is undermined by awkward lyrics that don't deliver the emotional punch the song needs. "Making Rain" also features some pretentious lyrics married to a nondescript tune. Words like "learn to bear the beams of love now mending my conflict with circumstance" sound to me like the boys are trying too hard to sound smart. I like "Drowning" better, it is more straight-forward and rocks harder. The beginning of "Nobody Got No Bizness" borrows from Archie Bell and the Drells' "Tighten Up" as Johansen announces "we're from New York City and we like our Philly soul Chicago-style." Unfortunately the tune isn't as propulsive or funky as "Tighten Up" but it does get a groove going and it has a sense of humor, an aspect of the original Dolls that this album could use a lot more of. The reggae-tinged "Trash" also is kind of funny particularly since the object of affection in the song is named "Trash." The album concludes with the noisy "Exorcism of Despair" which sounds a bit like the Clash's "Safe European Home." It is not a great song but at least it ends the album with some energy. I find this album to be listenable but also rather forgettable with only a couple of really worthwhile songs. It bugs me that Johansen and Mizrahi are tarnishing the legacy of their great band with such generic and mediocre music. I don't blame them for wanting to get paid but I would have though they would try a little harder to make something worthy of the New York Dolls. Recommended to people who have never heard the first two Dolls albums.