Punk

RIP Sylvain Sylvain: "Belligerent, hostile and deafeningly loud” (well his guitar playing anyway!)

In 1973 a local news report on the "social phenomenon" of "New York street bands" centered around the nightclub Max's Kansas City--where Debbie Harry could very well be your waitress and William Burroughs passed out at the bar--zeroed in on an exotic group of young men called the New York Dolls. In somber tones the newscaster described their music as "rough not polished" with "lyrics [that] are shouted, not sung" and live shows that are "always belligerent, hostile and deafeningly loud." Now there's a sales pitch!

And while the New York Dolls' guitarist Sylvain Sylvain (he also played piano/keyboard) was by all accounts neither particularly belligerent or hostile or loud in person--just the opposite, in fact, he was credited with holding the highly-volatile group together both personally and musically during their initial five-year run from 1971 to 1976--his guitar playing sure as hell was all three of those things. What's more Sylvain has been credited for coming up with the band's name and their (for the times) highly provocative look and for being their musical anchor with his slashing, rock solid and memorable guitar lines.

Rather than trying to tell Sylvain's story here or making a case for his significance, I'll simply point out that Sylvain and his guitar playing are very likely buried deep in your DNA. In other words if you're someone who listens to and/or creates what is referred to "indie" or "alternative" music, the New York Dolls were one of the central bands/central strands in the musical DNA of so-called proto-punk music (alongside the Stooges and MC5 and Death) leading directly to punk rock, obviously, and then to post-punk and alternative and indie rock. 

Here's a few good obits that were published today if you wanna know more about the man, the Dolls, and Sylvain Sylvain's post-Dolls career.

A British perspective from The Guardian (without the New York Dolls there'd been no Sex Pistols): 
https://www.theguardian.com/music/2021/jan/15/sylvain-sylvain-the-new-york-dolls

And here's what some obscure old hippie rag has to say about Sylvain Sylvain:
https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/sylvain-sylvain-new-york-dolls-dead-1114962

Versus a more punk rock perspective from Alternative Press:
https://www.altpress.com/news/sylvain-sylvain-obituary-the-new-york-dolls

Last but definitely not least, Sylvain's memoir published in 2018:
https://omnibuspress.com/products/theres-no-bones-in-ice-cream-sylvain-sylvains-autobiography

Now for some sounds and visuals cuz that's what matters. Exhibit A: If th song "Frankenstein" with its glorious twin guitar assault by Sylvain Sylvain and Johnny Thunders, taken from the Dolls' 1973 eponymous debut LP, doesn't send chills up your spine then maybe you should pay a visit to your local cardiologist and have her check to see if you still have a pulse:

This is probably the New York Dolls' best known song, though there's a case to be made for "Personality Crisis," in which David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter) kicks things off by quoting the Shangri-Las' "Give Him A Great Big Kiss":

And this is probably the best known filmed performance by the Dolls--appearing live on the German pop music show Musikladen, with two more songs taken from New York Dolls (1973):

Footage of the Dolls performing live in 1974 following the release of their oft-overlooked sophomore LP Too Much Too Soon. Rock entrepreneur and announcer Don Kirshner poses the $64,000 question: Are the Dolls "outrageous and bizarre" or "incredibly talented"? But Don, why they can't be both!

Excellent instrumental B-side from a band called Criminals, one of Sylvain's post-Dolls projects, 1978's "The Cops Are Coming" is a rocked-out rewrite of the iconic "Peter Gunn Theme."



Slyvain Sylvain's first solo album in 1979 contained this very cool track which could easily be passed off as an overlooked gem from the Goffin & King catalogue ("King" as in Carole King).

Nice live set here from Sylvain Sylvain & the Teardrops, again from German TV, a musical project whose one one and only album came out in 1981. Note the retro-rockabilly vibe and note that this was the same year of the Stray Cats' debut album. Sylvain was often on the cutting edge but often not getting due credit. Bonus content: you get to see Sylvain talking a bit about the Dolls during the wonderfully awkward interview segment.

And finally here's a song off One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This (2006), the first of several well-received New York Dolls' reunion albums co-written by surviving members Sylvain Sylvain and David Johansen. 

When it comes to the rest of the Dolls: Johnny Thunders passed away in 1991; drummer Billy Murcia died in 1972 on tour in the UK before the first album was even recorded, and subsequent drummer Jerry Nolan died in 1992; bassist Arthur Kane held out until the next decade and played the first Dolls reunion show in London in 2004 but died shortly thereafter before the Dolls had started work on their mid-aughts album. This excellent article from Classic Rock magazine traces the band's path of self-destruction and their salvation of rock 'n' roll. Today, only Buster Poindexter survives to carry the torch. (Jason Lee)

 

   

Lady Bits on the "Look Out"

You better look out / you better decide
If Santa’s your man / or patriarchy must die
Lady Bits is coming to town

He stalks you when you’re sleeping
Gaslights and violates
He thinks he knows what’s bad or good
So be bad for goodness sake

You better look out / you better get wise
Cuz yr gonna find out / that being naughty is nice
Lady Bits is coming to town...

Lady Bits’ new single “Look Out” is out so give it a listen, grab a beer and have a happy new year. And for the stocking stuffer, check out their Lose The Thread EP below!



   

Wrong War "Fixed Against Forever"

Hardcore group Wrong War has released their debut album, Fixed Against Forever, via Council Records. This is the latest project from Matt Weeks of Current, Calvary, and Ottawa, and he is joined by Patrick Keenan and Dave Pawlowski, who are coming back together for the first since leaving The Phenoms, along side Salvo Beta drummer Dan Smith.

The album was released on the Election Day and carries a politically charged message through its blistering nine tracks.

   

Devil's Dildo unleash "Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker"

To be clear this writer doesn't know a lot about Devil's Dildo but that's ok, here's all you need to know: 1) They livecast a DJ set and new-song-unveiling two nights ago on Baby TV that felt like it was beamed from deep inside the duo's collective unconscious and it was a spooky, sexy, strange place to be. Leading up to the witching-hour the DJ stream cut out periodically--and just as mysteriously resumed--for violating something called "community standards" but I can tell you on my end the violation was quite consensual. I mean what's a little crotch thrusting and foot licking between friends? 2) The DJ set was a perfect teaser for this Devil's Night/All Hallows' Eve weekend. Hearing "There's A Moon In The Sky (Called The Moon)" and "Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be" played back-to-back is a pretty magical thing. 3) Judging from their debut single below--named after an early '80s sleazoid shocker that fits the Devil's Dildo like a glove--the duo's aesthetic is in fact not unlike AC/DC-meets-the-B52's. Or maybe just maybe this leather-clad, freak-flag-flying pair is the second cumming of the Cramps but translated to drum machine, bass guitar and sculpted noise. I doubt Lux (R.I.P.) and Ivy would mind the comparison.

Most important of all: Devil's Dildo will appear tonight as part of what looks to be an epic all-covers variety show spectacular featuring the music of the Stooges, TSOL, The Damned, Cocteau Twins, Poison Idea, Void, Ramones, Misfits, Las Vulpes, and more if you ask nicely. The show will broadcast from Greenpoint's very own Saint Vitus in case you had any doubts of its heavitude. Proceeds of the show will benefit Black Trans Femmes In The Arts. (Jason Lee)

   

Desert Sharks "Don't Know How To Dress for the Apocalypse"

Released in late 2019, when heard today “I Don't Know How To Dress For The Apocalypse” sounds like a warning from our past future present. Over a buzzing rush of power chords the Desert Sharks’ lead yelper and bass player Stephanie Gunther laments “the world's a disaster / our leader wants to get there faster.” Mission accomplished. Fast-forward to October 2020 and the power-trio-plus-one have stayed busy with everything from a Zoom-tastic cover of the Misfits' “Hybrid Moments” to a feature on the queer-friendly Twitch rock 'n' roll hootenanny I Want My HYB hosted by Astoria's own Hell Yeah Babies in benefit of The Okra Project—a charity providing meals to Black Trans people-in-need prepared by Black Trans chefs. (Jason Lee)