Album Review: The Dandy Warhols ‘Distortland’
Sure, nothing gold can stay. However, it can fade and come back again with a brilliant, albeit slightly different shine. This has never been more prevalent than in the Dandy Warhol’s latest release. That’s right, the eternally cool Portlandian quartet that embodies the edginess of the late 90s alt-scene are at it again with their ninth album. You could be forgiven for scratching your head. Really? Nine albums? Yes, believe it or not, the Dandy’s have a huge body of work that is so much more than Bohemian Like You or We Used To Be Friends. Lately however, they seemed to have lost a bit of their cooler-than-thou image with lacklustre releases. But fear no more, ‘Distortland’ is the light at the end of the tunnel, because boy oh boy is this a killer album!
“…half the fun of a Dandy’s album is trying to figure what the lyrics are. Semper Fidelis continues with the futuristic spaghetti western vibes that are pretty prevalent throughout the whole album.”
It all kicks off with Search Party. It’s the same musty, dusty Dandy’s vibes, a delightful build upon much of the bands earlier work, It’s the same Dandy Warhols, just slightly more refined and developed. A maturity really. The use of the phaser effect really brings a ‘Back To Future III’ vibe, so in other words, space cowboys…which is amazing.
Semper Fidelis. This one is a very dirty, grotty, distorted track. Think the likes of Mohammed or Nietzsche, but far more chuggy. Taylor-Taylor is pulling some classic Bob Dylan garble with his vocals. Honestly, half the fun of a Dandy’s album is trying to figure what the lyrics are. This song continues with the futuristic spaghetti western vibes that are pretty prevalent throughout the whole album.
The chameleon nature of the Dandy’s mean their sound is never just one thing. It’s all about shuffling from genre to genre, adding a dash of this and that. In the case of Pope Reverend Jim that means upbeat, indie pop jam played with Beachboy style guitars. Basically, it’s a West Coast-inspired hell of a good time.
But then you have tracks like Catcher In The Rye. Co-written by both Taylor-Taylor and drummer Brent DeBoer, it is a delightful track to say the least. Plodding along sweetly, it is a beautiful addition to the album and a great tune for anyone in love. It’s not really discussed much, but the Dandy’s have written some really amazing love songs in their time. Not to get too mushy, but they have an oddly captivating ability to convey a certain yearning and maddening level of devotion. Think of previous tracks like Sleep with lyrics like, “If I could sleep forever it is of her I’d dream”. Catcher In The Rye has that same sort heart-a-fluttering lyrics. “Dreamer, any little place that you go, I’ll go.” It would make even Holden Caulfield blush a little.
“A lot of their earlier releases have songs that are literally seven minute long, distorted to sh*t instrumentals. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it is nice to have an album that’s a bit shorter and sweeter.”
However, if you think the lovey dovey stuff is a bit much, then perhaps STYGGO would be more of your thing. The Dandy’s have a track record for kind of doing whatever the f*ck they want. A lot of their earlier releases have songs that are literally seven minute long, distorted to sh*t instrumentals. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it is nice to have an album that’s a bit shorter and sweeter. STYGGO is a song that could have droned on, but no, the Dandy’s have come in strong with a grooving beat and set of bongos. Now, this song may not make much of an impression on first listen, but my god will it get stuck in your head. You’ll definitely grow to adore it. Not to mention whenever bad things happen in your life, now a husky little Courtney Taylor-Taylor voice will appear in your head singing, “some things you gotta get over!”.
Give really highlights the Americana influences in the Dandy’s sound. They have a tendency to match things that don’t really fit and make it work in a way. Give is a great example of that, mixing more folksy, rambling style lyrics mixed with an ‘X-Files’ like intro. Kind of like the new frontier, but if the new frontier was on Mars or something.
The funny thing about Bohemian Like You, perhaps the Dandy’s most renowned song, is how dissimilar it is to a lot of their work. The Dandy’s have tried pop-rock on only a few tracks, which is most likely to do with the aforementioned f*ck you attitude. You Are Killing Me is another foray into that field. With a more classic rock song breakdown and more pointed, not so ambiguous lyrics, it’s a different one for the Dandy’s. It’s probably one of their more user friendly tracks and something a new Dandy’s fan will enjoy listening to.
“Give is a great example of that, mixing more folksy, rambling style lyrics mixed with an ‘X-Files’ like intro. Kind of like the new frontier, but if the new frontier was on Mars or something.”
But making it’s way into the spotlight is the very British sounding and very aptly named All The Girls in London. Bringing back that Dandy’s swing style we all know and love, this song is reminiscent of what many would say is the band’s prime. It has beefy, chugging guitars and that classic Taylor-Taylor croak in the vocals. In fact it’s so good that it’s probably up there as one of their best tracks to date, not to mention it has a bridge that’ll make your heart skip a beat. It’s so good that you too will be dying for all the girls in London.
The Dandy’s have certainly grown up and ‘Distortland’ is a merit to that. It honestly gets better and better with every listen. This maturity is a delight and something the band really needed, which perhaps is evident in the final lyric of the album, “I’ve got to admit I’m too old for this shit”.
‘Distortland’ is out now and if you’re keen to know more about the album, check out our interview with drummer Brent DeBoer HERE