Everyone from Morrissey to Mötley Crüe name-checks the New York Dolls as an influence, but no one really sounds like them. Hardly anyone even tries. The Sex Pistols would not have happened without the New York Dolls (Malcolm McLaren briefly managed the Dolls in their last days before moving to London and assembling Johnny Rotten and company), but there’s none of the Sex Pistols’ political agitation in the Dolls’ sound.
Thousands of punk and metal guitarists based their haircut and fashion on the late Dolls’ guitarist Johnny Thunders, but hardly any of them play in his old-fashioned Chuck Berry/Keith Richards style. The Dolls were famous for being cursed — cursed with being way ahead of their time and cursed with bad luck and worse habits. Only singer David Johansen and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain survive from the old lineup. Bassist Arthur Kane died just weeks after the band reunited in 2004.
Despite all the death and disaster, the Dolls were not a dark band at all. What they were was wonderfully ridiculous. They were rough-looking guys who dressed like hookers and played Shangri-La’s songs and silly old novelty hits like “Stranded in the Jungle” but played them in a style that was too loud and sloppy and obnoxious to be considered anything other than punk rock. Now, several years into their unlikely reunion, the Dolls are still wonderfully ridiculous. In 2006 Sylvain and Johansen put out the first New York Dolls album in 32 years, and it featured — along with some relatively mature fare — songs like “Dance Like a Monkey,” which sounds kind of like “Stranded in the Jungle.”
NEW YORK DOLLS, Belly Up Tavern, Monday, March 10, 8 p.m. 858-481-8140. $22.