Trouble Dolls - Sticky
THE TROUBLE DOLLS - 'STICKY'
Like many of our favorite bands, we were three friends when we started, and we weren't exactly musicians. Matty was reviewing records for music store kiosks, Michael was pitching television scripts at unamused Hollywood agents, and Cheri was designing television graphics for a financial news network that once invited Lou Barlow of Sebadoh to play live in the studio as the stock ticker scrolled by.
As our friend Scottish Bob once asked: "Doesn't anyone in New York have a normal job? Doesn't anyone work in a shop?"
As we explained to him: No.
Cheri played drums and Matty and Michael played acoustic guitar. For a while, our friend Andy, who didn't work in a shop either, pretended to play bass by bringing along his electric guitar and only playing the low strings. We wrote some songs and got ourselves some gigs at the Sidewalk Cafe, home of New York's anti-folk movement, but we were never very good at fitting into scenes, and we didn't really have anything against folk music anyway, and what we really wanted to do was sit at home and write more songs and make records.
Our first one was called 'Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac'. We wrote and recorded the songs, designed a cover, and didn't tell anyone. To this day, no one knows. Our first brush with actual renown was "Ed's Next Move," a very cute farm-boy-meets-punk-girl movie. Our song "Planet Robin" was in it, and it made it into movie theaters for a glorious three weeks. You can still rent it, and you should.
We got a gig as the house band for a surreal radio drama called "Automatic Vaudeville" that aired once a month on WBAI-FM in New York. And then we did the soundtrack for a movie called "American Bohemian" that was written and directed by "Automatic Vaudeville" mastermind Tony Daniel. We even played "the band" on screen, and Cheri got to smoke a cigarette, 'cause Tony thinks everyone should.
Andy, the not-quite-a-bass-player, eventually moved on, and Michael one day sold a TV script and before you know it he was moving across the country to Los Angeles and buying mid-century modern furniture for his Hollywood bungalow.
Left to our own devices, we decided the Trouble Dolls would be a proper band, with gigs, rehearsals, a bass -- the works. Cheri moved out front to sing full-time while making glorious squeaks and squonks with her collection of Casios (she's got a Radio Shack Moog now, too!) and we found ourselves a real drummer, Gabe. We wrote some more songs and decided to make a record that people could actually hear. Our friend Evan, from a band called the Rosenbergs, played bass on most of the songs, and then right around the time we were done we found Pam, a bass player we could call our own. Though her bass isn't on the album, her magical harmonies are. We finished the album at Trout Recording in Brooklyn, with Bryce Goggin (Nada Surf, Lemonheads) lending his mixing talents and musical ear.
"I Don't Know Anything at All", "Something Blue Amazed Me" and a demo version of "7:05" were released in 2002 as the 'I Don't Know Anything at All' EP, on our own La La La Unlimited label. "I Don't Know Anything at All" became a major hit on MTV -- only Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You" kept it from hitting #1 on the "TRL" countdown. We were on the covers of FHM and Blender magazines, and the EP went on to sell 3 million copies. No, wait, that was Michelle Branch, not us. Sorry about that.
'Sticky' also includes "7:05" and "Japanese Gum," which show off our bubblegummy roots, and "Marcelle," which we originally offered to the Beatles, only to be told they weren't accepting outside submissions "at this time." We let our harmony hair down on "December" with a little help from New York pop singer Mark Bacino, who provided the cool breathy parts (his own new album is 'The Million Dollar Milkshake', and it's delicious). "Meeting on the Side" was described by one of our engineers as our "arty creepo song," and we couldn't explain it any better. There are eleven songs in all, which is as many as any band should ever put on an album, with the possible exceptions of Prince and the Magnetic Fields.
Matty wanted to make sure we mentioned Madonna somewhere in our bio, and Cheri couldn't stop him, so there you go. There have been some changes since we recorded Sticky. Sick of the incredible stress that comes with being the Trouble Dolls' drummer, Gabe traded in his sticks for some picks and is now playing guitar alongside Matty. Our new drummer is Chris. You'll have to wait for the second album -- it's already half-written, which isn't hard when you impose an 11-song limit on yourself -- to hear the new lineup.
We promise it won't be too long.
"Echoes everyone from Mazzy Star to Blondie. Screaming, cooing, bouncing, lamenting, embracing both the 'art' and the 'pop' in art-pop, it's time to welcome the newest New York Dolls." - CMJ New Music Report
"Terrific fuzztone bubblegum obviously recorded in a haunted castle by brilliant, dangerous babies." - Scram Magazine
"Exuberant." - The Village Voice
"A debut full-length aglow with Juliana Hatfield harmonies, handclaps and whatnot, where tambourines smell like fake tan and gold dust guitars grin like sin." - Careless Talk Costs Lives
"Smart and subtle observations about the politics of relationships and the world to which they are so reluctant to wake up (and Madonna, too)." - Venus Zine
"An auspicious debut." - PopMatters.com
Sydney Morning Herald - Trouble Dolls, Sticky December 13, 2003
Trouble Makers. Who: Cheri Leone, Matty Karas, Pam Weiss, Gabe Rhodes From: Brooklyn No, that's not a town named after Posh and Becks' kid.
Number of professional musicians in the band when it formed: 0
There's more to the Trouble Dolls than bubblegum pop and garage. Bernard Zuel hears it done the way it should be. THE TROUBLE DOLLS, Sticky (Half A Cow/MGM) * * * 1/2
Brooklyn's Trouble Dolls have recorded an album that at first appears to be on the bubblegum-meets-garage end of the pop spectrum, but expands impressively. And they've shown Australian bands trying to do something similar that they need to work harder and smarter to stand out.
The Trouble Dolls mark out one end of their territory with songs such as I Finally Figured Out and the title track (both head-shakers with cute keyboard sounds), Japanese Gum and Your Love Is the Sunshine (a song that's pure bubblegum and terribly infectious). Then there's the opening track, 7:05, the neo-Go-Go's stomporama, with singer Cheri Leone getting tremulous and the backing vocals working hard channelling Heart.
These songs aren't hugely sophisticated, but they are hugely enjoyable. Yet bubblegum-garage isn't all they do. I Don't Know Anything at All is just a damn fine song. It hints at melancholy but doesn't succumb to it, its lyrics finding a speculative love-going-wrong line over a background of an all-night news broadcast of a distant war.
December isn't far behind it for quality. Marcelle is the first song to suggest a familiarity with the mid-tone/mid-tempo songs of Aimee Mann, with Leone's voice hovering tantalisingly near sadness, then Something Blue Amazed Me takes the Mann influence further and gives the album its emotional heart, with Mellotron and a quasi-George Harrison guitar solo to flavour the resulting gorgeousness.
Elsewhere, there's the darker hue of Invitation, which starts with the frank couplet, "F--- me with no protection/Kiss me with morning breath", and holds that note of disturbance beneath the dreaminess of the tune until the end.