The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

The Dandy Warhols
...Earth To The Dandy Warhols... Chris Roberts , August 11th, 2008 13:13

The Dandy Warhols - Earth to the Dandy Warhols

When the highly entertaining “rockumentary” Dig! portrayed The Brian Jonestown Massacre as the coolest, most self-destructive, antisocial loons in school, it simultaneously portrayed their Portland friends/rivals The Dandy Warhols as self-conscious, preening, Satan-blowing, sell-out whores. Impressionable people - sizeable quantities of them living in and around Camden and Shoreditch - aligned themselves with the former, feeling this made them part of the “alternative” team. These people were wrong. These people were the new sheep.

What you have to grasp is that a) that terrific, funny film had an agenda and was biased as fuck. It bullied the smart kids. And b) The Dandy Warhols may have made a few quid from being used in a Vodaphone ad, but having some semblance of a canny brain is not a bad thing. Only in the indie arena could basic intelligence be treated with the degree of suspicion usually afforded men in sunglasses boarding planes with firelighters taped to the soles of their shoes.

The Warhols’ wit is all over this, their sixth album, and as ever it serves them well. I’m not saying they’re Groucho Marx, and I’m not saying Courtney Taylor-Taylor isn’t a bit of an arrogant dick. But if you’re playing pretty good garage rock with a handful of glam hooks and choruses for a living, then a few sly jokes and the knowledge that you’re a post-modern cartoon go a long way towards distinguishing you from the crowd. They also mean you don’t become as boring as Primal Scream.

It’s on their own label - it’s their gang against the world now - and, perversely, doesn’t chuck up its glut of radio-friendly pop hits until it’s quite a way in. But that’s probably how they sleep nights, by assuring themselves they’ve gone through a couple of droning arty psychedelic Velvet-y dirges before doing what they’re accidentally good at. Even then they have the gumption to liven up opener ‘The World The People Together’ with so much chirpy rhythm it might as well feature Will Ferrell playing cowbell. ‘Mission Control’ - already a US crossover hit - is squelchy 1980s white-funk, distinguished by Courtney’s peculiar vocal emulation of Andrew Eldritch of once-huge arch-goths Sisters Of Mercy. This kind of fusion of genres and eras is what makes the band mightier magpies than most.

The outstanding moment comes with ‘Welcome To The Third World’, a hilariously funny (intentionally) rip-off of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Miss You’, Blondie’s ‘Rapture’ and Talking Heads’ ‘Once In A Lifetime’, where Courtney method-acts Jagger pretending to be black (not such a stretch for him). This is a joy. “Hey, you dance pretty good for an almost white girl” is only his second funniest mock-sexy declaration. “Hmm. Your lips sure do match my wallet… let’s stroll out into the midnight air and skin up a fat one” is his coup de grace. The falsetto chorus of “the boys like the girls but the girls like the money” is a stroke of dumb pop genius. When our narrator suggests going somewhere quiet to “talk about Dostoyevsky”, the object of his desires vanishes. Who’d have thought? He is comforted - or we are anyway, even if he’s not - by a bassline of which Chic would have been proud. Anyone who doesn’t grin on hearing this track would bore me very quickly.

Oh dear - it appears the band invited their guitarist “friends” Mike Campbell of The Heartbreakers and Mark Knopfler to guest on the album. Yes, Mark Knopfler. There’s no excusing that, is there? Although, the more you think about it, it’s so infuriating and fearless that it’s really, really, cool. This is the thing about the Dandy Warhols - they’re annoying fuckers, but their sense of trash-aesthetics and their ideas for a great party are almost unerringly spot-on. For every obvious smart investment like ‘Love Song’ and ‘Talk Radio’, there’s something gripping and filthy (‘Wasp In The Lotus’, ‘And Then I Dreamt Of Yes’). So here are your choices - go hang in a gutter with Anton Newcombe in a pool of his own dribble and vomit because that shows how rad you are, or jump in the shallow end and breathe and laugh knowingly with The Dandy Warhols, the original MGMT, and have a bitching night out. Losers or winners? No contest. Keep up, Earth.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.