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Various Artists Jet Boys of Babylon: A Tribute to the New York Dolls

By Frank Meyer, Contributing Editor
Wednesday, March 23, 2005 @ 10:14 AM


(Fastlane Records)

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Tribute albums are a shaky lot. Rarely great, sometimes good, usually terrible, they seem to be awarded to any band that ever made an album these days… yet, surprisingly, glam/proto-punk legends the New York Dolls are not one of those bands. Until now. Sure, there’s been a million tributes to Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders (a fucked up idol in his own right), but hardly any that I know of to the Dolls themselves.

So how does Jet Boys of Babylon: A Tribute to the New York Dolls fare under the weight of the Dolls sleazed out and now iconoclastic rep? Well,…er… okay, I guess…

The best cuts here are the ones where the band’s take a chance and tweak with the feel of the tune, such as Crash Kelly’s upbeat take on the ballad “Lonely Planet Boy” and the New Romantics’ “Subway Train.” The best example being R50’s hip-grinding version of
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“Bad Girl,” where they completely downshift the rhythm and turn the otherwise chugging rocker into a Stones-meets-Eddie-Cochran-meets-Ramones swagger that melted my face the first time I heard it.

It’s a good thing a few bands decided to throw some curve balls, because on nearly every other track the artists just play it safe and offer up sub-par barroom covers of the tunes we’ve all heard a million bands play before. Copping Thunders’ licks, Johansen’s growl and Jerry Nolan’s backbeat ain’t nearly as easy as it seems. All you shredders can whine about punkers can’t play, but try to bend just one note and make it sound like Johnny. I dare ya. Ya can’t do it. No one can.

And just to prove that point, Johansen himself appears Frankenstein 5000’s cover of “Babylon,” and proves that no one can touch the king, reducing their singer to a bad imitation next to the real deal. Sex Pistol Steve Jones turns up on “Personality Crisis,” though you’d never know it.

This CD is worth it just to hear ol’ Dave rip it up on “Babylon” and for that R50 cut. Some fine rock there…

* * ½


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