Rock and Reprise.net
I have never been a New York Dolls fan, but have me rethinking that. I remember the early days of the Dolls and their platform shoes and makeup and frizzed out hair and even though I was in the middle of Los Angeles at the time and a denizen of Hollywood Boulevard, glam just didn't appeal to me. As I look back, I wonder if I ever gave them much of a chance. I mean, they were freaks, no? Thoughts of a small town boy in the big city more than likely prevented me from delving into a large part of the music scene back then. I should have known. My friends on the whole loved the Dolls and we shared the adventure of music back then (as well as some righteous weed and beer swill). Perhaps I was a bit na?ve. Okay, more than a bit. But I learned. I won't make that mistake again.
The Dolls toured not long ago and Conte was there. He joined in 2004 after playing in bands like Crown Jewels, Company of Wolves and The Contes. When they came through Seattle in 2005 (My God! Has it been that long ago?), I read the reviews, overwhelmingly positive, and listened to the wailings of Stan Twist, a good friend and one of only a few people I will hear out no matter what the subject. Maybe I pushed Stan's comments to the back of my mind (Okay, I did. My apologies, Stanley.) and maybe I wasn't quite ready to admit I was wrong, but I'm beginning to think that I was. And that's the Crazy Truth.
The album crossed my desk a few months ago and, busy though I was and am, had found its way onto my player a number of times. I heard the dirty side of glam the first time through and subsequent listens recomfirmed what I'd heard, but it has been only during the last couple of hearings that the subtleties began to surface. Steve Conte & the Crazy Truth are not The New York Dolls. I finally get that. And as their own entity, they totally succeed.
Junk Planet convinced me. Sparse and raw, it flashes back to the mid- and late-70s but oh, man, that guitar! Distorted and overamped, Conte clips notes short for one-second feedback clips and guitar commas and it is like the guitar is talking. I admire musicianship and Conte's ship landed here. Hard, driving, the song sounds like it belongs on one of my favorite albums from The Angels--- (Angel City in the US, as if Americans are not smart enough to distinguish between Angel, the US band, and The Angels--- sheesh!)--- Beyond Salvation. Put it right after right after Dogs Are Talking and it would work beautifully.
After Junk Planet, it was simply a matter of revisiting the other tracks. This Is the End is ?Junk Planet, Part One?; Texas T fluctuates between eerie and raw, thanks to Conte's spot on guitar; The Goods Are Odd mirrors cranking 70s glam with amphetamine guitar break and all too short harmonica by Dolls' mate David Johansen; and Her Highness tiptoes around punk, but not quite. You get the picture.
Crazy truth be told, this may be one of the biggest sleepers of last year, assuming that you want your music loud and raw. Steve Conte's handling of the guitar is fluid if not masterful, and Leeko's solid bass and Phil Stewart's pounding drums give him plenty of support. I suggest that you head over to the band's and take a listen. Might do you some good and it certainly couldn't hurt. As for myself, I have to dash an email off to Stan. If I'm going to revisit the Dolls, I want to use my time wisely.
Frank O. Gutch Jr.
Supporting the Indies Since 1969