If you’ve payed any attention to the Dandy Warhols over the years, you know that not only do they jump and combine genres with ease, but each album is wildly its own entity – Come Down is a psychedelic rave, 13 Tales From Urban Bohemia a mystical grunge storybook and Welcome to the Monkey House an electro-goth dance party.
To me, this not only makes them one of the more interesting bands in the world, but leaves behind a legacy of music that caters to whatever you’re in the mood for.
This Machine moves back into that dark, grunge territory. It’s rough around several broken edges, leaving room to shimmer out neon solos and doodle with some weirdness (wouldn't be the Dandys if you didn't "Huh?" a couple times).
Like I established yesterday -- the beginning sets things up, the middle is weirdly awesome and Dandy and the end drops it back down for a dreamy, drawn-out finish. This is, no doubt, a Dandy Warhols album.
“Sad Vacation” establishes energy directly, opening with a grinding, upbeat bassline (nobody plays bass – Zia does it on keys).
One of the more interesting things about the band is that Courtney Taylor-Taylor is six different singers. On the second track (“The Autumn Carnival”) we get languidly whispering Court. There’s also dry and sarcastic Court, super-low sexy Court, falsetto Court, screaming thru static Court, and even dry-and-sarcastic-through-a-megaphone Court (which, I think, is default).
There are a lot of albums lately that save really salient parts for the latter half – Jenny and Johnny’s latest, Grouplove’s Never Trust a Happy Song (I’ve never heard an album fade stronger), just as the Beastie’s Check Yo’ Head picks up steam as it goes.
This might be what the R.S. critic (mentioned in part one) ran into when he hated on the Dandys’ Odditorium.. . Similarly on This Machine, the first three songs set the upbeat mood… And then we get “Alternative Power to the People,” a rave-up guitar jam with Court doing something I can only describe as spaceship laser beam beat boxing.
At this point in the album (upon our second listen) L. suggested I pull out the Fender and jam to it. Which I did – reverb and delay adjusted UP – for the entire rest of the show. Without stopping.
There are often moments on albums where you realize the mood has snapped – like how, on the Beastie Boys’ 20-song epic Check Yo’ Head, the silliness of “The Blue Nun” launches into a roaring, funky sprint to the finale.
The Dandys are just getting started.
“Well They’re Gone” is a gothic ballroom dance that sucks you fully into the weirdness. The slow drum machine is nothing new, but the sounds around it are and you’ll accept them (much like you accepted “Die Eier von Satan” on Tool’s Aenema).
Things take a patented Dandys trippy-break at this point. “Rest Your Head” could sub in as the slow song on 13 Tales.. . This song is devastating listened to turned way up. These guys are still really good at late night headphone music.
Never a band with the intention of lulling crowds to sleep, they launch into a heavy drum ‘n horns rendition of “16 Tons” (“And whattya get? Another day older and deeper in debt”). The Dandys are always ready to tell you how much they love being indie rock stars. I’d like to get irritated by the bragging, but… they do seem to be doing it right.
The poppy, dripped delay of “I’m Free” is that “The Dandy Warhols Love Almost Everybody”-type happy song found on more than a few of their albums. This one is really good -- Fathead leading the way with pounding toms.
Which brings to mind two other great strengths of the Dandys: churning out great driving music and being cool enough (also see: Rilo Kiley, Incubus) to know when a rousing chorus of trumpets (or even one sad one) is more fitting than yet another guitar solo.
“Don’t Shoot She Cried” is a trip-out, harmonizing special. Shimmers and whispered feedback calm things back down over a chorus. And “Slide” dreamily drifts things up and out for a perfect denouement.
* I feel unqualified (or overattached) to give this album a number rating. If I was just discovering the band for the first time, several of these songs would probably make my week. There are also a few guitar jams that are decent but unextraordinary.
I can’t yet compare This Machine with the several other Dandy Warhols albums that have been cornerstones of my life (I’ve written entire novellas listening to nothing but their music). If you’re a Dandy Warhols fan -- keep listening! And if you’re not yet, as I said in my very first blog – The Dandy Warhols aren’t for everybody, but they have something for anybody (except terrorists).
If you are new and willing to give this a shot, I suggest grabbing 13 Tales From Urban Bohemia (or maybe Earth to the Dandy Warhols) and working backwards, then forwards (discography). “Not if You Were the Last Junkie on Earth” wasn’t even a scratch on the surface of what this band offers (they didn't even like that vid; also they have a new drummer now).
Just remember to listen to these cats LOUD.
At The Odditorium the Dandys make music for themselves AND for you. *
[Just a rough taste of one of the best live bands I've ever seen.]