The Dolls have now released more albums since their 2004 reunion than during their first run in the ’70s, and it’s clear they’re unwilling to live in the past. Dancing Backward explores soul and classic ’60s pop undertones that were always present but mostly drowned in decadent rumble. The latest sounds like a collaboration between David Johansen and his lounge lizard alter ego Buster Poindexter, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Johansen’s ragged rasp is limited for soul and pop, but succeeds on its spunky showmanship. Other changes: they’ve said goodbye to former Hanoi Rocks bassist Sami Yaffa and skilled lead guitarist Steve Conte, whose loss is particularly noteworthy since not everyone can fill the late Johnny Thunders’ shoes; former Blondie guitarist Frank Infante’s just not in the same class. Louis XIV’s Jason Hill takes over on bass and produces the album (he also gets credit for the string arrangements, and does a fine job of bringing out the warm, hook-laden sound). Among the highlights are the hard grooving “Funky But Chic,” with its riff and backing vocals, and the sunny bossa nova-pop of “Streetcake.” But those looking for the trashy glam bluster of the band’s first incarnation will be sorely disappointed.
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