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“DD Review: Dandy Warhols – Distortland.”

Score: 9.5/10

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Just as everyone pretty much knows what they want when it comes to Chocolove, [1] everyone knows what they want when it comes to the Dandy Warhols. With me, I just NEED full albums, and I almost resent the song “The Last High.” Although it was a good song, it came on the blunderbuss that was Welcome to the Monkey House. Welcome to the Monkey House is to be starkly contrasted with its predecessor 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia, a full album the likes of which I had never heard anything in my life. [2]
Now, the elephant in the room here, obviously, is that we are talking about a band which unscrupulously named themselves after a founding pop artist, and issued the debut album with the charming title Dandys Rule Ok. [3] Better than Ezra, eat your heart out. [4]
In order to understand the general magnitude of melancholy emanating from lead man Courtney Taylor-Taylor [5] on any given inspired project such as 13 Tales of Urban Bohemia, you would need a sonar the scientific caliber of the ship in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Yawn. In case you haven’t noticed, American’s aren’t exactly fu**ing sensitive, and to derive value out of something you still have to relate it in a componential way to some peers of some sort. It’s not enough to just see a bleeding heart on the sidewalk, we have to know that that bleeding heart is still trying to make an effort like inside a person, and beating. Nothing is finally a sovereign statement of emotional need. 13 Tales of Urban Bohemia, with its orchestral hat returns (“Godless”), its surreally bare rockabilly masquerades (“Country Leaver”), and its Arcade Fire-informing orchestral pop (“Sleep”), was not so much a semantic statement as a transcendent player of luminosity, a choice, lean cut of pure, unadulterated feeling, set to the bare minimum amount of rhythm so as to render it even alive.
Ahem. Ok, I have no idea how to write about this album. I’ve never even been to Portland. I’m just going to, through three songs, compile a list of all the influences I’ve thus far heard flawlessly projected. Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys. A Ghost is Born-era Wilco. Disturbed. Yes, you heard me, Disturbed. Bad-era Michael Jackson. Psychocandy-era The Jesus and Mary Chain. Live at Max’s Kansas City-era The Velvet Underground. [6] [7]
Distortland is a Dandy Warhol album the way Nelson Mandela is a dinner guest. It’s a quantum leap for the band, which, to boot, doesn’t even really have a starting point. Nothing in the band’s history has indicated that they would one day rock us with the carefree swagger of Motown, and its visceral power is only sweetened by the fact that it is actually more textural and ethereal than its Elliott Smith-nodding predecessor This Machine. [8] That is to say, that last album was actually more abrasive, and featured more guitar feedback.
As any reader of this blog knows, I’m pretty much obsessed with one-time Third Eye Blind guitarist Kevin Cadogan. He was with them when, you know, they were RELEVANT, on their first two albums, and as such is probably reaping quite the deserved royalty checks. His formative trait, that which makes his heart beat on an everyday basis, is that he loves rock and roll with every bone in his body. He loves it insolently, he loves it with a noxious vengeance. All chatter to the otherwise is obliterated by the gushing nodes of feeling in his riffs, like in the intros to “How’s it Going to Be,” “God of Wine” and “Wounded,” and somewhere in the innards of the likes of “Jumper,” “Deep inside of You” and “Darwin.”
On Distortland, the Dandy Warhols sound like a band that has undeniably renewed its love for pure, roots rock and roll, the kind that gets you shaking your booty, the kind that disagrees with your own self: telling once again, you can have another drink, you can dance again, you can stay out ‘til four in the morning and still get through work the next day. You can do it. And not only can you do it, but it’s the only way to live.
There is not a note on the scale which goes unused on this album, there is not a rock music, or jazz music influence, rock that goes unturned in the crafting of these songs. But overriding everything, vetoing everything with its physically insuperable pervasion, is the band’s GROOVE — they’re locked in with perfect tightness on this emotional roller coaster ride, on which every track differs in not only musical style but vocal tone from the one before it. What they’ve become, nothing more and nothing less, is the 20-teens’ best pub band. Seek and ye shall find.
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[1] I used to be a grocery buyer, and at one of our team meetings, our male assistant manager made the comment that “Everyone pretty much knows what they want when it comes to Chocolove,” after which followed an eruption of laughter from our female manager.
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[2] I’ve said this exact same thing about The Roots’ Phrenology, and both albums make use of an absurd array of musical styles and genres.
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[3] An album which happens to suck, to boot.
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[4] Better than Ezra similarly provided us with a pungently mediocre LP effort before spawning the playable pop rock beast that is Deluxe, in the mid-’90’s.
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[5] I’m pretty sure he made his last name the same name twice, too, as a joke, but I forget the exact premise.
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[6] Although, that is to say, the band within its latter days PERFORMING its early songs, with Billy Yule (the timeless) on drums instead of Mo Tucker who’d become pregnant, like the roots version of “I’m Waiting for the Man” or “White Light/White Heat.”
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[7] Ironically, never before have I more FIRMLY felt this band were even that heavily influenced by Andy Warhol’s embryonic boy toys.
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[8] This situation is made even more ironic by the fact that Portland cohorts Everclear have also put out two great albums in the last five years, although in their case, the poppy and dainty came before the physical assault.

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