The Dandy Warhols – [Album]

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Maybe more than any other band in history, The Dandy Warhols have personified the theory (most often upheld by cooler-than-thou hipster/scenester trash) that indie rock bands are at their best when they're the private pleasure of a small group of people. Anyone who questions the legitimacy of that statement need only look at the band's history for proof; with two good albums already under their belt (Dandys Rule OK and Come Down), The Dandy Warhols blew up on the strength of Thirteen Tales Of Urban Bohemia and rightly became the toasts of the time. The success that they found with Thirteen Tales was deserved but, in retrospect, was obviously a surprise to everyone including the band. After that, the attention was on and The Dandys tried to deserve it by going bigger, but slipped stylistically with the follow-up Welcome To The Monkey House. New fans didn't know that though and the album sold incredibly well in spite of its diminished quality. Because of the turn that Monkey House represented, the hipsters jumped desperately onto Odditorium or Warlords from Mars because they were petrified of being proven wrong – that this band didn't need to be a private pleasure – and discovered that the band's songwriting could get just “that” bad when Earth To The Dandy Warhols crashed nose-first into the ground and burned up.

Disgusted and disillusioned, the scenester contingent abandoned The Dandy Warhols completely. Perhaps because no one was looking, Are Sound marked a slight improvement in both the band's fortunes and craft, but it wasn't enough to really get anyone interested again. The Dandys' audience languished and their fanfare quieted down, and Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Peter Holmstrom, Zia McCabe and Brent DeBoer got some peace and quiet to craft their eighth official release (according to the sticker affixed to the CD jewel case, but tenth according to the band's own web site), This Machine – without question, the band's best album in twelve years.

From the moment the bass line (well, it might be a down-tuned guitar) which drives “Sad Vacation” begins to grumble and opens the record, the interest of long-time fans will be piqued. Here there is no synthesizer stupidity like there was on Monkey House and no desperate (but self-indulgent) grasping like there was on both Odditorium and Earth To…; it's just stripped down and anthemic indie rock & roll. When the vocals lead in (somehow, the “Right down to a crawl” refrain rings like the admission of lessons learned by the band over the last decade), listeners will feel themselves get a little anxious with anticipation; the song seethes with energy renewed and implies that something awesome is brewing.

With the introduction made by “Sad Vacation,” The Dandy Warhols are well and truly off to the races for the duration of This Machine. Throughout this album, the energy levels never dip as the band knocks out ten more fantastic – and fantastically moody – numbers which never tread back to the heart of the “alt-Stones” vibe which won fans over on their first three records, but do break new and fertile soil on similar ground. That they're at least edging onto familiar territory isn't lost on the band as Courtney Taylor-Taylor makes the abstract admission of where this record is coming from in “Enjoy Yourself” (check out lines like “It went by so fast/ Now I want to go back/ and that's why I'm livin' in the past”), but it doesn't hinder the proceedings at all. The band effortlessly keeps the music moving without succumbing to the temptation to throw in some extra (and cheesy) affectations (like synths or enormous production values) or pandering to the taste-making status quo. Songs like “Alternative Power To The People,” “16 Tons” (which might be the coolest cover Merle Travis' anthem ever – it's part Tom Waits, part Dandys and all great here) and “SETI vs. The Wow! Signal” all sound awesome and off-beat anthemic charges (with a bit of added punch from Tchad Blake, who mixed the album) which seem destined to win the hearts of those fans who have been left out in the cold by The Dandys' movements over the last decade or so, and they'll definitely be able to win a few of the listeners who are just becoming acquainted with the band as well.

After ten years spent sounding like they were just trying to figure out what they wanted to say to their audience next but not accomplishing much, The Dandy Warhols have really landed on something great with This Machine. The most diehard supporters – those who hung in with the band through all their fumbles – will finally be able to feel justified in their patience and belief when they hear This Machine. Once again off the radar and with no expectations being made of them, The Dandy Warhols have finally presented something great in this record; here's hoping that they have the common sense to keep flying low and thinking small.



The Dandy Warhols – "Sad Vacation" – This Machine
The Dandy Warhols – "Well They're Gone" – This Machine


The Dandy Warhols' North American tour in support of This Machine begins on May 16, 2012. Click here for a list of upcoming shows.


This Machine
will be released via Beat The World/The End Records on April 24, 2012. Pre-order it here on Amazon.

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