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July 24, 1981 - Image 9

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1981-07-24

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Arts

Friday July

The Michigan Daily

Friday, July 2

r

Sylvain, Johansen

'Syl Sylvain and the Teardrops'
(RCA) and David Johansen- Here
Comes the Night' (Blue Sky)-Once
again, Syl Sylvain has reminded us that
talent is not as central to good rock and
roll as style and spirit. He, of course,
learned that principle in its greatest
illustration so far-The New York
Dolls.
The Dolls were ple'nty talented but it
was really the outrageousness (both

brazen?" than the songs themselves.
Likewise, the listener's attention wan-
ders to consider what Johansen thinks
about singing another song saout
sleazy women. (For the first time-
stooping to the level of "You think I'm a
whore/But I've got a heart of gold.")
He doesn't sound thrilled, that's for
sure.
Sylvain, on the other hand, is singing
the same sort of stuff so genuinely that
you know he believes it ... and if
you're not careful you're liable to find
yourself believing it, too.
You may actually find yourself
pulling for the creep in "Formidable"
who tries to talk the girl, he knocked up
into settling down with him and having
his baby by spewing out the most un-
believable American Dream garbage.
And the magic of. Sylvain's voice is
such that even pabulum like
"Just give me a kiss.
Cause it never felt like this.
And it goes
Bum bum bum bumbum da
bumbumbum"
comes off as nothing less than sheer
poetry.
THE ATMOSPHERE of each song is
just so believable that you can't help
but feel every moment of it. During
"Dance Dance Dance" you can almost
see the overcrowded 50s ballroom with
sweat-matted bangs, long-discarded
letter sweaters, bobby sox rolled down
over the edge of saddle shoes, and the
band with just enough energy to make it
through one last number but still

4, 1981 Page 9
THE COMING WEEK:
Pick Hits
MUSIC
Kraftwerk-Having just scored a big hit with "Pocket Calculator" off their
new album Computer World, Kraftwerk will arrive in Detroit with the ar-
mada of equipment that they require to make their synthetic dance music
and the four androids made in their likenesses that they use during the show.
It's hard to believe that they'll be able to recreate onstage the snappy,
layered zip-whir-and-pop of their recorded work, but I certainly wouldn't
miss the chance to see them try. Nitro's; Saturday, July 25; $7.50.
Twenty/Twenty-This L.A. pop band's recorded work has been less than
astounding. So far, they've had one good (but somewhat derivative) single,
one album that had scattered flashes of brilliance, and a new LP that is
almost completely lackluster. Let's hope they've wised up to the fact that
they've bitten off more than they can chew; you just can t get away with
talking about pretentious topics like nuclear war and modern alienation so
morosely and inanely, especially not in the context of pop music. Second
Chance; Monday, July 27; $5.50.
Squeeze and Syl Sylvain-Both of these bands have come out of left field with
two of the best albums of the summer. Squeeze have never put out a bad
album, but this new one (produced by Elvis Costello and Roger Bechirian) is
both more adventurous and more successful than any of its predecessors.
Sylvain's new record with his band, The Teardrops, is the first record by any
former member of The New York Dolls to recapture even a hint of their
magic. (See review at left for more information and opinion.) Nitro's (in
Detroit); Wednesday, July 29; $6.00.
ys>

personally and musically) with which
they plundered America's musical
treasure chest that made them the most
important rock and roll group of the
early 70s. Now it is Sylvain-who we
had assumed was the least talented of
the lot-who has come full circle back
to glory in the joyous powers of rock
and roll.
IT'S PROBABLY even true that
Sylvain was the least crucial to the
Dolls' sound of the three that led the gr-
oup. After all, it was David Johansen's
Jaggeresque vocals and Johnny Thun-
ders' screeching roadrunner guitar-
work that characterized The Dolls'
wantonly bluesy sound.
And Sylvain's work immediately
following the demise of The Dolls
proved him to be in pretty much the same
boat as his cohorts-trying to turn a
product that the record-buying and
-selling audience had already deemed
too iconoclastic to sell into something
more marketable (read: "middle-of=
the-road"). Of course, those attempts
were fruitless, producing albums that
were more sell-outs than sell-ables. But
not anymore.
Sylvain finally had the sense to chuck
all that and return to the devil-may-
care sensibility of The Dolls. Johansen
hasn't shown that much sense yet. He's
still puttering around trying to adjust
his sound so that it will sell.
AS A RESULT, Johansen's new
album seems even more typically for-
mulaic than past offerings. All of
Johansen's spirit is gone, all that's left
are the motions. While Sylvain sounds
like he's having fun on his record,
Johansen only sounds desperate. He
half-heartedly trots through song ideas
like he's clutching at straws. He seems
to be thinking more about "Will it sell if
I throw in a heavy metal guitar here?
Or should I make the vocal less

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willing to give everything they got to
stretch that last number out as long as
they can.
But every song is like that-each is a
pure gem of spirited fun. From
"Crowded Love" where the band jumps
right into high gear out of the startine
gate, through the reggaesque stroll of
"Lorell" and the boy-group pop of
"Just One Kiss," finally ending on the
"Loco-motion"-style rave-up "No Dan-
cin,' "Syl Sylvain and the Teardrops is
the kind of album that can make you
believe in the simple healing power of
rock and roll all over again.
-Mark Dighton

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