Release Date: May 5, 2009
Record label: Atco
Five years into one of the most unlikely reunions in recent rock & roll history, the New York Dolls have begun to acknowledge the great paradox of the new edition of the band. If ever there was a band with a distinctive musical and emotional personality, it was the Dolls, but with only two members of the original lineup still alive and able to take the stage in 2009, David Johansen and Syl Sylvain have had a heavy burden to bear, trying to make music that feels and sounds like the New York Dolls without their iconic lead guitarist, their original rhythm section, and the sort of lifestyle that defined their world view when they were the edgiest band in America's toughest city. The new Dolls created a reasonable approximation of what their old sound would have been like had they all survived into the new millennium on 2006's One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This, but 2009's 'Cause I Sez So suggests this band has little interest in living in the past, including their own.
The Dolls chuck the mascara but keep their glam-rock swagger 'Cause I Sez So is true to the album's title—cocky, purposefully cretinous and rude as hell. Lead vocalist David Johansen snarls and roars through the album. Even seemingly mellow songs, like the bluesy ambush "Better Than You," get the Dolls' trademark screw-you spin: "My baby, don't talk nasty about her / You don't even got no class / I'm gonna kick your ass," Johanson sings in a lilting, taunting, parodic way.
There is a short scene in the 2005 documentary All Dolled Up in which replacement drummer Jerry Nolan sits for a haircut in a Los Angeles salon. It’s 1973 and the boys are in town promoting their debut album. Nolan has propped a copy of the record against the mirror and stares intently at his own face on the sleeve while exchanging small talk with the barber.
For a disc by glam rockers over 30 years past their prime and a band in which three of the five original members are dead, this could be a lot worse. [rssbreak] Cause I Sez So is David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain's second studio effort since their 2004 reunion, and it benefits from a reluctance to revive the badass shtick, a good thing considering Johansen is almost 60. Not that the Dolls are trying to get their record on a Starbucks counter.
The New York Dolls were always a numbers racket, prepunk movers of their seedy CBGB Revlon anti-scene, slopping out greasy bucketfuls of blues-inflected trash rock. And then there were two: David Johansen's howlin' wolfishness and Sylvain Sylvain's dirty boulevard guitars, here both beaded and salty with an audible sheen of East Village sweat courtesy of 1973 debut producer Todd Rundgren's immaculately filthy production. Long shots this winning are rare, but 'Cause I Sez So pays off in spades.