New York Dolls – Dancing Backward In Heels

The debate on who first started the genre of Punk Rock is a discussion that will out live us all: was it The Ramones in New York or The Sex Pistols and The Clash in London? Or were they merely just the pioneers for a genre that had already been started before by someone else? It’s a topic that many people are divided about with, many band names being thrown around.

One of the names in amongst this melting pot of dispute is New York Dolls. Forming in the early 70’s, New York Dolls are said to have started the ‘New York Scene’, which spawned the likes of punk rock groups such as Joey and co, Blondie and Talking Heads. With their glam rock looks, a larger than life character in guitarist Johnny Thunders and two cult records under their belt, New York Dolls ethics were very much punk rock and their music had an element of the punk genre before the term was even created.

Unfortunately, the Dolls were always a band set to self-destruct. In 1976, this is exactly what happened when they decided to call it a day after years of disappointing record sales and declining public interest. In 2004 however, after being invited to perform at the Meltdown Festival by Morrissey, the band decided to reform. Now in 2011, with two surviving members still flying the past Dolls flag high and three new members brought into the fold, New York Dolls are back in action with their album Dancing Backward In High Heels, the follow up to their 2009 release, ’Cause I Said So.

Carrying on a familiar theme of fun and playfulness, Dancing Backward In High Heels still embodies the energy of their early years but with new influences. Whilst their first albums were mostly dirty rock, the Dolls new release takes the inspirations that could be previously in the background, such as blues and pop and brings them instead, to the forefront of their music. Picking up where ’Cause I Said So left off, this new LP is the sound of a band trying new directions and looking to re-invent themselves in the modern age.

Album favourites shine in the form of “I’m So Fabulous”, a song that combines humour, guitars and upbeat rhythms, whilst “Kids Like You” slows down the proceedings with its 60’s rock and roll sound and driving vocals. “Round and Round She Goes” another album gem, brings the tempo back up with its 50’s swing vibe and saxophone beats. “I Sold My Heart To The Junkman” pushes the albums boundaries even further with its pop sensibilities and background vocals, which flutter alongside soft guitars and gliding melodies, all of which compliment Mr. Johansen’s throaty voice very well.

For New York Dolls purists Dancing Backwards In High Heels could be their idea of living hell. Long gone are the days of filthy guitar licks and for that some people will not forgive. To the impartial listener however, the New York Dolls fifth LP is a very enjoyable and diverse album, especially if you are looking for an album that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that you can dance like an ass too.

With a legacy that sometimes overpowers their music, New York Dolls needed a little creativity to get them back in the limelight again, a feat that they have definitely managed. Quirky, amusing and inventive, Dancing Backward In Heels is not a record that will adhere to everyone’s taste, a lot like the band who created it.

Original article first appeared on Altsounds website on 23/06/11

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