The Dandy Warhols – This Machine
May 2, 2012 by Daisy Jones
I remember watching ‘Dig’, the 2004 documentary about the rivalry between Courtney Taylor-Taylor of the Dandy Warhols and Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and being unsure whether it was a spoof. It was The Dandy Warhols that came across looking worse than their friends-turned-enemies, but all were embroiled in an irritatingly stylized and affected sort of hedonism that reeked of self-satisfaction. But then again, The Dandy’s were born out of Oregan in ‘94 and that was okay there and then. Nowadays, one would be forgiven for thinking they are so passé. Ahem.
Musically, The Dandy Warhols have occasionally risen to brilliance after the year 2000 with the release of Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, which had a certain kind of fun charm. If we could forget how many times we’d heard ‘Bohemian like you’ over the last decade in TV advertisements depicting countless cars, mobile phones and fun teenagers having so much fun all the time, as well as innumerable movie soundtracks, we might realize that it is actually a truly great song. If it wasn’t for what Louis Pattison of NME hailed as “the quintessential Dandy Warhols moment to date” one might be forgiven for wondering, in a parallel existence, how they might have done.
Their new album “This Machine” proves that like Haley Jole Osmand, the Dandy Warhols improve with age. It is their eighth official studio album and is released on the label, The End. Despite Coutrney Taylor-Taylor’s claims that their new album is “stripped down and extremely guitar-centric” and “woody” these are not particularly fitting adjectives to describe the album, which is dense, somewhat gothic and packed with distortion. The opening track ‘Sad Vacation’ is a fuzzy, fast-tempo tune that harks back to their 90’s grunge roots. Its propelling rhythm is fitting for an opening track although the momentum never really builds up to anything but momentum, making for a more meandering tune – which is not necessarily a negative. Courtney’s moody, almost Manson-esque vocals in this track set the tone for the rest of the album, which continues in this sort of vein. This is with the exception of a few more upbeat radio-friendly tracks such as ‘Enjoy yourself’ of which Courtney’s vocals give a little nod to Iggy Pop and the cheerful harmonizing invites a welcome breather from the otherwise dark collection. I have an inkling this song might be the ‘Bohemian like you’ or ‘Not if you were the last junkie no earth’ of their latest record.
There is no doubt that a repeat listening reveals a certain undertone to the album. There’s a sense that the Dandy Warhols are harking back, ruminating and acknowledging some sense of loss or failure. There are edges to Courtney’s lyrics throughout. In ‘Enjoy yourself’ he goes “I used to be cool”, a line not obviously steeped in sadness but that sticks out nonetheless. And towards the end of the album in ‘I am free’ he sings “Now I’m free at last/my darkest past is fading fast and I can say at last/ that I am free.” It is these thoughtful depths of the album that make it different to their others. You get the sense that they’ve “grown-up” somewhat and are having a look back at their journey. Maybe this means they’re close to wrapping things up. Who knows!
It seems as if in the 18 years that the Dandy Warhols have been a band, their career has been littered with question marks. I’m sure “This Machine” will be no exception. After all, it is difficult to disregard a bands entire history. Nonetheless, if one was to listen to this album with fresh ears, what you might get is a fluid, grungy record. It might not be the next Nevermind but it is a very decent album.