Album Review: New York Dolls – ‘Cause I Sez So

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Since their formation in 1971, the New York Dolls have been through hell and back…and then some. Between drug addiction, break-ups, overbearing pressure, death, and just about everything else, any other act would have waved a white flag and called it quits. Well, the Dolls did in fact call it quits – for nearly 30 years! As if nothing had happened, the odd assembly of punk rock’s ultimate predecessors packed their bags and left the scene. That’s not to say they left entirely. A few of the members tried their hand at solo projects (Buster Poindexter, anyone?), though none of them ever came close to achieving the band’s former acclaim. Of course, the tables turn and money talks. So, when the band resurfaced back in ’06 with their third record, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This, the name hit the streets again, albeit with a few replaced bandmates and some more wrinkles. Naturally, diehard Dolls fans had to learn the valuable lesson that change is hard.

Regardless of the lineup, the New York Dolls still kicks some proverbial music ass, especially as the six members champion on with their fourth studio album, ‘Cause I Sez So. After all, where would the band be if lead singer David Johansen abandoned the band? The answer is nowhere. Johansen’s contributions are the glue that holds the Dolls together. He has always been the backbone of the group and ‘Cause I Said So proves just this once again. Though Johansen’s vocals have always been quite throaty and brash, over the years, time has only intensified his signature sound. On record, his voice is pure vintage whether he is shouting on rock anthems (“’Cause I Sez So”) or attempting tenderness (“Trash”). Come to think of it, at times, he sounds almost like Tom Waits.

Given the pervading dirty guitar riffs and fist-pounding refrains, it’s not uncommon to hear echoes from the past members. However, this new material proves the aging New York punkers are no one-trick pony. ‘Cause I Sez So is a fresh winner produced by longtime music pal Todd Rundgren and one that explores various styles ranging from blue-eyed-soul, melodic pop, muscle rock, and, of course, a little punk action. It’s no wonder that the band has influenced so many great acts over time like the Sex Pistols, The Ramones and Blondie.

“This is Ridiculous” is a blues-influenced track that showcases Johansen’s famous pissy attitude to a T. No matter how old Johansen may get (he’s pushing 60), this Staten Island brute never fails to channel his rage through his music — hey, it’s a New York Dolls trademark, for Christ’s sake! However, ever since the band’s comeback, the Dolls have become less out-of-control renegade-like and more mature and tamed. It’s hard to say if its change in style is a loss or a gain for the band, but nevertheless, the byproduct is still impressive (“Lonely So Long” and “Making Rain”).

If there was only one influence on ‘Cause I Sez So, The Rolling Stones would be it. It was clear throughout One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This that decadence and glam are no longer valuable to the boys (or men? or dolls?). Without music genius Johnny Thunder (the band’s ex-guitarist who died 1991), the band’s style that first attracted a cult following of punk fans seems to now be unreachable, or it could just be a conflict of creative input by the new band mates. Whatever the case, ‘Cause I Said So is an album that’s well-deserving of your attention, even if you’re still lamenting the death of the band’s heyday. Word of advice: Just get over it already!

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