Given that New York Dolls began amassing commercial failure, critical derision, and the deaths of its members almost from the moment it formed in 1971, the band’s 2004 rebirth was more or less miraculous. Not that everything came up roses for founders David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain; although their 2006 comeback, One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This, was a slab of lean, fun rock that did surprising justice to the Dolls’ legendary ’70s output, original bassist Arthur Kane died before he could contribute to the recording. In spite of that tragedy, 2008’s ’Cause I Sez So was even better. But on Dancing Backward In High Heels, the group that helped launch punk rock and glam metal returns to its own roots: ’60s pop and girl groups. The result might have been sharper if someone other than Louis XIV’s Jason Hill produced it; his washed-out murk and puddles of reverb render the whole thing a mess. Luckily, there’s just no stopping Johansen and Sylvain. Johansen imparts a saucy verve and grave insouciance to the Spector-esque “Fool For You Baby,” and both he and Sylvain rev up the snarl on “I’m So Fabulous.” And even when the duo trots out a remake of “Funky But Chic”—a song it first recorded for Johansen’s 1978 solo debut—it’s been retrofitted into an Edwin Starr-like soul stomper. In that sense at least, Dancing Backward lives up to its title.
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