New York Dolls – ‘Cause I Sez So

January 01, 1970



Maybe it was the inability to capture the spirit of
thirty-six years gone by. Maybe it was the lush island setting of Kawai that
softened the edges. Maybe it was the fact that David Johansen no longer looks
at an album as a statement but more of “a snapshot in time”. For whatever
reason, it’s hard to listen to ‘Cause I
Sez So
past the first four songs and think “New York Dolls”. Where One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even
captured the swaggering irreverence of the original band – albeit with
much better musicianship – the new album comes off as more of a travelogue
through Johansen’s alter egos than the output of a band.



The album kicks off with the title track and it’s a monster.
Steve Conte and Sylvain Sylvain rip into classic Stones/Dolls guitar chords as
Johansen sneers about paparazzi over a thunderous beat; this is textbook Dolls
material and sure to be a live staple from now on. “Muddy Bones” rocks as well,
and gives both axemen a chance to flash, while “Better than You” and “Lonely So
Long” are classic Brill
Building pop and among
Johansen’s best vocals ever. The Dolls were never a band concerned about
airplay, but those two throwback singles deserve ear time.



But with those four exceptions noted, I’m hard pressed to
catch a whiff of Sylvain elsewhere on this record – there’s no trademark chord
mania, no vocal asides, no street punk input that let you feel his pulse
throughout each song. And Conte – the Johnny Thunders of this Dolls era – is
all but neutered on the rest of the album. Along with bassist Sami Yaffa and
drummer Brian Delaney, he’s solid but nondescript as we take a trip through Johansen’s
Buster Poindexter (a lame island reggae version of “Trash”) and Harry Smiths (“This
is Ridiculous”
) personas. The songs aren’t bad, and Johansen’s lyrics are
as sharp as ever, but they should have been saved for a solo project. I think he
and the band knew it, too, since the album if front-loaded with the four best
tracks and the fifth (and only other Dolls-ish song) is the closer.



The New York Dolls name should stand for something, and on
half of this album, it’s merely a vehicle for the material rather than a viable
band making a statement. “Temptation to Exist” lets David Jo get his crooner
on, and “Making Rain” was probably created after one too many late-night spins
of Quadrophenia. “Nobody Got No
Bizness” might be a tongue-in-cheek nod to Archie Bell and the Drells right
down to the patter (Rundgren is a Philly boy, after all) but it wears thin, and
the less said about that stoner reggae version of “Trash”, the better. By the
time they get to the chaos of the closing track “Exorcism of Despair”, it’s not
“too much too soon” – it’s almost too
little too late
. Maybe I’m just holding them to a higher standard, but the
prior album (and their live shows) proves that they can still hit the ball out
of the park. This is more of a ground rule double.



Standout Tracks: “Better Than You,” “‘Cause I Sez So,” “Lonely So Long” BILL HOLMES




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