Never Heard of 'Em: New York Dolls
Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.
New York Dolls
I CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE, YOU GUYS, I'M HAVING A BREAKDOWN. Phew. I just had to let that out. I mean, I can still do this column, I just can't do Nipper's recommendations two weeks in a row. Nipper, who literally sits in our offices inside a plastic booth and listens to records all day (I'm not kidding! You can visit him!), does not know how regular human ears work, and so I can tell when he's behind the picks for this column because they drive me bonkers.
Dude is great; he's like a library of music knowledge—totally unusable knowledge, because when he talks, so much weird shit comes out that you can't find the wisdom in between the mom jokes and the esoteric music slang. But everyone else who recommends albums for this column takes at least one second to question if they might drive me over the doom ledge. He only hears something that's like a synesthetic combination of the actual music sounds plus the encyclopedia entry on that band, all wound together in a big knowledge symphony.
So what I hear is a scrooooowowow of guitar, somebody pounding on a piano, and this lead singer screaming the way a baby does when it gets cartoony—its lips waggle and vibrate and you can tell the poor dear is going to run out of air.
New York Dolls are glam rock, which means something about outfits and that sometimes they sound like the soundtrack to a wacky musical. The first track has a lot of piano, and the screaming reaches baby level about halfway through. It hurts.
At first, I was trying to picture listening to this in some dark, 1970s New York place—a club, a warehouse, an apartment decorated in animal prints. But truthfully, without the extra genre-knowledge gained from looking at the album cover, this sounds like sunny road-trip music. Like you should listen to it while driving through golden afternoon fields in an old-fashioned car. "My pretty baby," etc. Sure, the snarls and gyrations come through. But there's something stately and traditional to the structure here, and if you don't listen to the words (it's cool, you can't understand half of them anyway), it's just bright, organized guitar jags and straightforward drumbeats building to crescendos. American as apple pie, porn titles with puns in them, and capitalism. It's fine.
I do not, however, understand how music nerds always forget that other people don't get a simultaneous microfiche slide show of history while they're listening to music. It's just sounds, dude! They have to stand on their own.
I give this a "sure, whatever" out of 10.