April 22, 2004

SHAKIN' STREET NO. 1

Forget the impending New York Dolls reunion -- there are other NYC-bred acts worth checking out

The New York Dolls are about to become the latest band to cave in to the reunion temptation. David Johansen, Syl Sylvain and Arthur Kane, with former Guns 'N Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin rumored to be standing in for Johnny Thunders, will be sweating out the oldies at the Meltdown Festival in London, and possibly more shows.

Sylvain has made a comeback of sorts the last few years, playing more shows and getting current bands, such as the San Francisco power-popsters Red Planet, to back him up. Let's hope Johansen hasn't abandoned his folk-rock project, the Harry Smiths. That and the Buster Poindexter routine were not the greatest things in the world, but it beats reviving an act that has been dormant for 30 years and has two key members dead.

While Johansen & Co. have the right to try to cash in on their past any way they choose, a better appreciation of their legacy (and one way that is certainly more cost effective) can be found by checking out three underappreciated and amazing bands currently bashing away in the clubs in the Dolls' old hometown: The Bamboo Kids, the Martinets and Some Action. These acts have been slogging away without the aid of hype machines or big record labels; the result of their hard work is tight sets with a distinctly New York swagger that rock but also roll. The roll part is the ingredient that seems to get lost with bands that plug in their distortion pedals, wait for the record company exec to recycle the old storefront "grunge" sign with "garage" and claim to be influenced by the MC5 and the Stooges.

The Bamboo Kids churn out raucous anthems that update '70s punk for the 21st century. This is no frills, straight-ahead rock n roll at its finest. Their self-titled debut was released last year on a label in Norway called Big Dipper, and it is slated to be issued domestically on Pittsburgh-based Get Hip Records later this year. In the name of full disclosure, there has been some hype on The Bamboo Kids.

The Martinets have released two albums on the now-defunct Scooch Pooch Records out of Los Angeles (Is this label still around? Last Web site update: March 1, 2002!). They are finishing up work on the third. Why this group of veteran New York scenesters does not have a higher profile is baffling: Lead guitarist Daniel Rey collaborated with Joey Ramone on his solo album, produced the later-period Ramones albums, played guitar with Ronnie Spector and -- well, you get the idea. The guy is good. Bassist Dave Rick and drummer Roger Murdoch played in King Missle, among many other credits. Singer-songwriter-rhythm guitarist Eammon Bowles, who was in a punk band called the Fabians circa 1980, pens clever, smart originals with great, trashy hooks -- the kind you can expect the reunited Dolls to be missing minus the late Mr. Genzale. And speaking of Doors-like reunions, this MC5 reunion thing going around will be hard-pressed to top the Martinets' cover of "Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa."

A quartet of young upstarts comprises Some Action. This quote from the band's Web site pretty much sums them up: Broken bottles, broken instruments, broken bones, broken hearts -- the only thing Some Action might ever fix is rock 'n' roll.

These cats may owe as much to the acts like the Saints as the Dolls for their blistering sound (check the theme/anthem "Some Action" for proof), but there is no denying the New York in their sound and stage presence -- lots of fun and energy. They have a self-titled CD EP out, but better yet, the theme song is available on a vinyl 7-inch single at www.giganticmusic.com.

So, the next time you think the Strokes are what is happening on the New York scene, think again. If you wanna see the spirit of the New York Dolls in action, check out all three of these acts. As for the Dolls and their reunion . . . well, to paraphrase/reverse an album title of their, sounds like it's gonna be too little, too late.

-- By Joe Belock

* Shakin' Street is a regular column by writer-at-large Joe Belock, the host of the Three Chord Monte radio show on free-form WFMU-FM in New Jersey.

Posted by medleyville at April 22, 2004 03:43 PM
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