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New York Dolls

'Cause I Sez So


Sounds like: More trash, but in a good way

Short take: Glam-punks reunite with Runt

In the early '70s, the New York Dolls jump-started punk rock with a Stones/Shangri-Las street sound and a wardrobe swiped from their girlfriends. Now, 36 years later, they're back together with Todd Rundgren, who produced the group's self-titled 1973 debut. 'Cause I Sez So, their second album since re-forming five years ago, is another great rock 'n roll record that retains the feel of the past yet remains fresh and captivating. Singer David Johansen is in full swagger, while the guitars of original Doll Sylvain Sylvain and new Doll Steve Conte shimmer and dive, shake and drive. They come out swinging with the riff-and-roll title cut and the crunching "Muddy Bones" before sliding into the Brill Building pop of "Better Than You" and "Lonely So Long." Along the way, the Dolls visit Spaghetti Western land, channel Howlin' Wolf, and put a tropical spin on their own "Trash." This is the real stuff, baby. — L. Kent Wolgamott

Purchase the CD: New York Dolls - 'Cause I Sez So

Steve Earle


New West Records

Sounds like: A world of hurt made beautiful

Short take: Earle goes from Guitar Town to Townes

There are only a handful of songwriters from the past 50 years whose music can be traced to the mad rush of genius. Townes Van Zandt was all that and more: On his best songs, like "Tecumseh Valley" and "Sad Cinderella," the amount of pain he portrayed is almost beyond comprehension. Really, the Texan hurt for us, so maybe we didn't have to. And in the years since his death, it seems like a larger audience is finally starting to sense his staggering achievements. On Townes, Steve Earle pays tribute to the man who long ago inspired him to choose his own path. It's a smart move for Earle, because in one fast swoop he gains an album full of some of the best songs ever written, and the intensity of his covers is obvious. This is music to quiet the madness by stepping into the maelstrom. Sometimes there is simply no other way to do it. — Bill Bentley

Purchase the CD: Steve Earle - Townes


Wavering Radiant


Sounds like: Isis books Tool time

Short take: Metal gazers keep it dark and opaque

An album of paradoxes, the latest Isis CD is sure to give its running mates Mogwai something to think about. Not only does this sludge metal act expand its borders — "Hall of the Dead" and "Ghost Key" unabashedly feature dreamlike guitar sounds à la the Cure — but it somehow maintains its post-metal credibility with the occasional guttural scream or stoner rock jam. Isis also makes some ventures into Tool guitar soundscapes, an interesting addition to the band's already complex sound. In fact, Tool's Adam Jones makes a guest appearance, which explains the "Lateralus" vibe. The cornerstone of this seven-track offering is album closer "Threshold of Transformation," which at nearly 10 minutes sends the listener off with percussive bruises and aural painkillers. In the end, Wavering Radiant is enticing for its unyielding bombast and beautiful reclamation. Purchase the CD: Isis - Wavering Radiant — John Benson

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