The End Records
Who would’ve thought that a band that named itself after a pop artist would see its career follow the same path as that artist’s most famous expression? Perhaps the Dandy Warhols wanted to insulate themselves from the whims of the music industry and let everyone know they were in on the joke — i.e. they were only capable of achieving “15 minutes of fame.” Or maybe not. The Dandys have been smart asses throughout their 18-year career. (Their debut album, Dandys Rule OK? includes a repetitive, harmonica-tinged song called “Lou Weed.”) Their next record (and major label debut) featured a minor hit “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth.” (Those old enough will remember it as the “heroin is so passé” song featured on MTV’s Buzz Bin in the late ’90s.) The Portland foursome hit their pinnacle of fame and critical praise with their third album, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia. While their previous albums featured catchy hooks and a handful of good songs, the rest was basically noisy filler. Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia was focused throughout, as evidenced by their biggest hit, “Bohemian Like You,” which peaked at number 28 on the Billboard chart. Unfortunately, the Dandy Warhols didn’t sustain the cohesion of Thirteen Tales in their next four albums. The Dandys littered the 2000s with one blank, vacuous song after another. And bizarrely, the Dandy Warhols were in an embarrassing rockumentary that featured the rivalry (wink-wink) between them and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. With the focus on the two groups’ frontmen, the movie really should have been called A Tale of Two Junkies. With a decade of missteps, it seemed the Dandy Warhols were basically done for. Until now.
This Machine, the band’s eighth full-length, is arguably its best album. No joke. All 11 tracks are varied yet solid. The driving “Sad Vacation” kicks off the record and leads into the arpeggioed chords of “The Autumn Carnival,” which David J. Haskins (Love and Rockets, Bauhaus) co-wrote. While the track features many flourishes, you can hear the main guitar squeak between note changes. The rest of This Machine follows in the same vein: studio trickery with parts that don’t quite align perfectly. For example, the voices in the chorus of “Enjoy Yourself” (“So look at yourself/ And enjoy your health/ Let everybody else be everybody else/ And really enjoy yourself”) fit a bit awkwardly with Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s singing. No matter. The heartfelt new-wave track is still catchy. This Machine showcases the Dandys’ melodic hooks in a variety of songs. The fast ’80s rock in the beat-box instrumental “Alternative Power to the People” juts against the slow cabaret keyboards of “Well They’re Gone.” The next song, “Rest Your Head” was co-written with Miles Zuniga of Fastball. Indeed, the breezy pop is reminiscent of Fastball’s biggest hit “The Way” from the late ’90s. And switching gears again, funky saxophones in “16 Tons” follow “Rest Your Head.” The Dandy Warhols haven’t completely abandoned their meandering ways with their tight Machine. Those who like the psychedelic washouts of the Dandys’ first two albums will appreciate the last tracks of This Machine. “Don’t Shoot She Cried” eerily sounds like the first few minutes of the opening track “Be-In” from the Dandys’ second album. Ironically, the keyboardist/bassist and drummer penned the hypnotic song. (Courtney Taylor-Taylor writes the lion’s share of the Dandys’ music.) “Slide” ends This Machine with gurgling effects and staccato organs. The Dandy Warhols may not repeat their “15 minutes of fame,” but with an album this good, they should.
Dandy Warhols: www.dandywarhols.com