Tag Archives: ‘Cause I sez So

Blast From The Past: Sylvain Sylvain

Syl Sylvain
is one cool cat.

The Keef to David Johansen‘s Mick in the New York Dolls, Syl is the one who makes the engine hum. And as there are but the two sole surviving Dolls, that’s more important in 2010 than it was two decades ago when they first blasted upon the scene. 

I was playing some of his solo work today and flashed back to a review I wrote in November 1998 for Consumable Online; his albums had just been released on CD. At the time I surmised that the Dolls would never reform (I am very happy to have been proven wrong!) and hoped that he would resume his own career since Johansen obviously intended to do the same. 

The live Dolls reunion a few years ago and the subsequent album One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This both blew me away with a sound both classic and fresh. I wasn’t a big fan of the next Dolls album Cause I Sez So, and their recent live shows seem to use the same set list that they’ve been doing for a while. But I also believe that when good bands satisfy their outside urges they can bring some great stuff back to the table. 

The always-busy Steve Conte is doing that right now with The Crazy Truth. Syl is doing the same thing in Batusis with Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys. Maybe that will make the Dolls stronger. Maybe not. 

But no matter what happens, these Sylvain Sylvain albums rule. 

I'm Dickens, He's Fenster

After leaving the New York Dolls, guitarist Sylvain Sylvain released a couple of very good pop records that somehow got lost in the shuffle. When no third record materialized, it was a disappointment but not a big surprise – after all, post-punk pop was finding no welcome mat in the synth-happy 1980s, and even David Johansen had to whore himself out as Buster Poindexter just to put food on the table. 

Imagine my delight when Fishhead Records not only released some of Sylvain’s previous songs on one CD (Sylvain Sylvain…..In Teenage News), but a brand new collection of twelve songs! Adding to the good news was the announcement that Sylvain was hitting the club circuit again, band in tow. 

He’s still a pop guy with 50’s doo-wop roots glowing through his songs. The title track, an ode to his lost bandmates, is reminiscent of Little Anthony and The Imperials, while “Another Heart Needs Mending” mines the same sock-hop vocal territory. But grit abounds too, thanks to a crack band of backup musicians, among them Frankie Infante and Fuzztones Rudy Protrudi and John Carlucci. “Oh Honey” is pure Bo Diddley, and “I’m Your Man” is a finger-poppin’ rework that jumps out of the speakers. 

Although proud of his Dolls roots, reading Sylvain interviews gives a strong clue that a reunion will never happen, mostly due to a fractured relationship with Johansen. Still, Sylvain has no qualms with the great songs they wrote; three are included here, among them a spirited rendition of “Trash” (a song also recently covered by soulmate Gilby Clarke). And only a former Doll could write a “Sleepwalk” style instrumental and call it “Forgotten Panties”! Hopefully this signals the beginning of the second half of Sylvain Sylvain’s career

Syl’s MySpace site 

A good Creem interview from 2005 

Yet another  from 2006, courtesy Brooklyn Vegan


Filed under Music, Reviews

NEW ALBUM! New York Dolls

I was a punk before you was a punk

I was a punk before you was a punk

 The news five years ago was simultaneously exciting and daunting – not only were the New York Dolls going to perform at the Meltdown Festival per Morrissey‘s invite, but they would record some new songs together for the first time in over thirty years! Exciting because let’s face it – the Dolls were Too Much Too Soon and had their legs knocked out from under them by bad management, drugs, worse management, more drugs, and the curse of being the dead body that followers could cross over like a bridge. (Oh, and even more drugs.)

Johnny Thunders recorded L.A.M.F. with The Heartbreakers, an almost perfect punk album. David Johansen did what he does best – survive – releasing some solid solo works before being tempted by the (not Walter) lure of Buster Poindexter.  Sylvain Sylvain quietly issued a couple of killer solo albums that really let his knack for catchy pop songs shine. (Syl is the Keith Richards of The Dolls – he runs the band and he keeps the lead singer honest). Listening to all that great music being made separately made one wonder what might have been

And then, in 2006, we sorta knew. One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This was a statement album from the remaining members of the band, supported by ace replacements like Sami Yaffa from Hanoi Rocks and a 21st century Thunders in Steve Conte. Somehow the band defied time and captured the irreverance, the girl-group anthems, the humor and the punk swagger and forged it through a modern, literate filter to at once sound current and classic. Even the most skeptical Dolls fan had to be impressed. Combined with the DVD of the Meltdown performance and the poignant documentary on Arthur Kane, the New York Dolls were not only relevant again, but they were great. The album translated well to the stage, where a more polished band delivered the goods old and new night after night after night.

Now, three years and another live album later, we have Cause I Sez So, the new studio album. But as much as I’d love to say it’s a step forward, I can’t…

Read my review in Blurt Magazine.


Filed under Music, Reviews

Blast From The Past: David Johansen Group

If I’m going to continue to pace the room in breathless anticipation of the upcoming New York Dolls album ‘Cause I Sez So (produced by Todd Rundgren), I might as well dance.

Yeah, we took the ferry, whatchagonnadoaboudit?

Yeah, we took the ferry, whatchagonnadoaboudit?

A few months after the release of his first solo record, David Johansen packed the Bottom Linein NY for a three-night stand, the middle night being simulcast on WNEW-FM. A limited edition 9-song promo was released after that, but the full 18 track set didn’t surface for another fifteen years. And fifteen years after that, it still holds up.

The band, like Johansen, were Staten Island natives, albeit younger; to them Johansen and the Dolls were icons. Guitarists Johnny Rao and Thomas Trask, bassist Buz Verno and drummer Frankie LaRockawere a tight band in need of a singer, and after some relentless pursuit Johansen agreed to join in, bringing Sylvain Sylvain in tow. The sound of The David Johansen Groupbore a strong resemblance to the Dolls, but the campy chaos was now a streamlined soulful rock attack, with three guitars dancing atop a formidable but not-flashy rhythm section. In other words, rock’n’roll that could appeal to a much wider audience – more punk than the classic rockers and more structured than the punk bands. And since it was 1978, it was another validation that disco did suck.

The set was killer, featuring solo and Dolls tunes as well as the usual bevy of great covers, ranging from Motown (“I Found A Love“, “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and “Love Child“) to bubblegum pop (“Build Me Up Buttercup“) and even a whack at Bonnie Tyler’sIt’s A Heartache”, sandwiched within “Personality Crisis” just to keep the crowd honest.  They kicked it off in high gear with “Cool Metro” and peppered the crowd with rave-ups, swinging r&b and the usual cocky/funny shtick from David as front-man. When Johnny Thunders jumped onstage to close it all out with “Babylon” it must have been absolute bedlam.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen The New York Dolls several times in their original incarnation, and when they broke up it was a sad but inevitable occasion. But I was thrilled when Johansen rebounded with several good albums, and during this phrase of his career I saw the band six or seven times. They never failed to light the place on fire, and thankfully a couple of those are captured for posterity; both Live It Up and this album are highly recommended. I was not a Buster Poindexter fan and liked, not loved, The Harry Smiths. But having seen the 21st century version of the New York Dolls a few times already, I can vouch that they are in prime ass-kicking form.

So until that new album drops, to quote “Frenchette“…let’s just dance!



Filed under Orphaned