Tag Archives: Dolls

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

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Under The Radar: The Forty-Fives

Hate, hate, hate it when a great band starts to make their mark and then just fades away because of money issues, lack of recognition or some other game-changer. After getting progressively better from Get It Together to Fight Dirty, The Forty Fives looked like they hit paydirt with High Life High Volume. The Atlanta band went to Detroit to soak up the vibe and lay down tracks at Ghetto Recorders with producer Jim Diamond; the results were great! But somehow, not long after that, my expectations – and theirs, apparently – were dashed.

Looking back and giving this one another spin, I remembered why I get so excited when a band like this comes down the pike. At least they did get to tour the world, play gigs with their heroes and even showcase at Little Steven’s Underground Garage Festival at Randall’s Island. Maybe they’ll do me a favor and make another record?

Diamond continues to find and work with great acts (The Charms and The Love Me Nots among the more recent stunners) as does the label Yep Roc, and bands like this do continue to pop up and take their shot. I just have to keep looking since with few exceptions, the radio and the press isn’t much help. And when you find one…ahhhh, bliss.

Here are my words from 2004 as they originally ran in Pop Culture Press

Hip-shakin’, roof-raisin’, ass-kickin’ rock and roll as Atlanta’s finest quartet hooks up with a producer who “gets it” (Jim Diamond behind the knobs) for a jukebox full of dynamite. Echoing every great British Invasion band (with a special nod to the Small Faces), Bryan Malone’s stirring vocals and electrifying guitar chops lead the way, but this is a rock solid band effort.

They’re too cool for school, rocking with abandon, dipping their toe in a cow pie (the countrified “Bicycle Thief”) and even daring an instrumental (“Backstage At Juanita’s” soulful Hammond – kudos Trey Tidwell – is worth the price of the record by itself). Killer cover (“Daddy Rolling Stone”) segues into a Dolls-like glam rocker (“Junkfood Heaven”), before the horns and blues of “Too Many Miles”. And if you’re still wavering, the blazing “Superpill” features the best handclaps since The Romantics ruled the earth.

Did some jackass say rock and roll is dead? No way – it’s right here, baby, on one of 2004’s best records.

Give them a listen on MySpace or at their website.

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Under The Radar: The Downbeat 5

No smoke, no mirrors. Just IN YOUR FACE rock'n'roll

No smoke, no mirrors. Just IN YOUR FACE rock'n'roll!

The Downbeat 5 was formed a decade ago by legendary Boston rocker J.J.Rassler, whom many of you might know from the band DMZ (along with future Lyres member Jeff Connolly). Rassler’s then-wife Jen shared a love for all things Dolls, Stooges and garage, tempered with a melodic pulse yet a fiery pace, and her prowling, howling vocals were the perfect complement to the piston engine that drove most of the songs in their repetoire.

Smoke and Mirrors was recorded live in a studio full of friends and guests, and the band proved it doesn’t know any speed but full. Plowing through some well chosen covers from The Kinks, The Yardbirds and The Velvet Underground along with a few of their own songs, The Downbeat 5 sound like The Detroit Cobras on a Red Bull buzz. I would have loved to have had my ears pinned back that night at Q Division studios!

Jen – now called Jen D’Angora – has the same gutteral yelp as The MuffsKim Shattuck, while Rassler plays the Johnny Ramone role by thrashing out infectious power chords and stinging guitar fills. But the band wouldn’t be half as much fun without the piledriving rhythm section of bassist Mike Yocco and drummer extraordinaire Eric Almquist (a monster player). Plus you have to love a band that thanks Ed Koch, Ratso Rizzo and the Olsen Twins in their liner notes…

The band’s 2005 release Victory Motel is sadly out of print (ping me if you have it!) but Ism is still available, and with a cut on the latest Little Steven Coolest Songs collection getting attention, hopefully there will be more albums to come. You’d be hard pressed to top this one for pure adreneline, though. 

The Downbeat 5 website.

The Downbeat 5 MySpace page..

The Downbeat 5 rip the stuffing out of “Shake“.

A rousing  “Dum Dum Ditty“, now rocking the Underground Garage.

downbeat 5 live

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