Well, I have to admit, for how much this band sometimes pi**es me off, they do make a strong impression and typically occupy a fairly substantial mine field in my music-related psyche. To wit: they’ve been successfully weirding me out basically at will since I was in high school and Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia was fairly contemporary, a hipster “Bohemian” record by calling which also featured a homo-erotic rockabilly song on it.
Par for the course, Why You Say Crazy runs a stylistic gamut which is way too eclectic for its own good, although maybe that’s the point. To me, Distortland was the perfect Dandy Warhols record, with opener “Search Party” pithily harking back to bubble gum pop without being too indulgent or deliberate about it, the metal/experimental tracks coming on the next two and then side a coming to a head on the beautiful “Catcher in the Rye,” which then cemented the album’s m.o. as radio-friendly lo-fi.
Why You So Crazy, to its discredit, has no such specific stylistic calling. The moments intended specifically to disorient and alienate the audience come early, often and almost invariably, whether it’s the stubbornly bare “Terraform” and it’s fu**ed, muffled vocals, “Highlife’s” coke-girl rockabilly madness or “Next Thing I Know,” the latter of which probably comes the closest of any project in history to representing a case of the Dandys actually making up their own musical genre, which would be something like Prince in his prime if he were stoned and depressed instead of horny and on coke.
I mean, how can I explain this: the moments when this album is at its weirdest also represent its most energetic and definitive, lazy and modal failures like “Be Alright” and “Thee Elegant Bum” manifesting as such for their monotonous reliance on Monkees guitar pop.
So what kind of band are The Dandy Warhols one these days? I think it’s definitely a valid question.
Well, for one thing, they’re a SUCCESSFUL one, as Billboard reports that they have a “10,000 square-foot studio/performance space/bar/hang-out space… called The Odditorium.” So they’re a successful one. And they’re an odd one. This new record shouldn’t change any of that.
And before I even call to ranks the question of whether they’re “misunderstood,” I have to somehow come to terms with how underrated their last two records were before this one, because compared to that, nothing could stand as relatively misunderstood. I mean, they seem just totally oblivious to the press, cranking out that classic bit of catchy goo that was Distortland and then embracing and fawning over Consequence of Sound for this new LP, the publication that veritably bashed Distortland and also did so in a nonsensical and absurd way, asserting that they weren’t doing anything new.
Well, sh**, I’m gonna keep talking about this new album, ’cause it’s kinda fun to do so. “Sins Are Forgiven” finds the instrumentation refreshingly stripped down from the booming bass and distorted synth we find elsewhere, to a warm, hearty acoustic guitar strum and gentle licks of what sounds like a lap steel gracing the background. Thematically, the lyrics are about as blasphemous and iconoclastic as you get, which I guess is kind of refreshing (I’m constantly in this realm where I’m amazed that people are really still as interested in Christianity as they are). But anyway, Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s declaration of “Your sins they are forgiven / Let me down” is kind of intriguing to me as a sort of kiss-off to humanity, as if to say, from the general mode of your species I already know you well enough, so there’s no need to offer me this sympathy you apparently allot me as inviting, or something like that. Anyway, the verses and choruses are short and simple, which I think is generally a good blueprint for them here, allowing them to sidestep that overly deliberate riffy jollity in the form of pop/rock they dabble unfortunately in elsewhere. “Small Town Girls” and “Motor City Steel,” while not musically TERRIBLE, probably fall into a realm of what I’d call “comedy-rock,” wherein the emotion going into the creation of the song is different from the one stylistically embodied by it, in each case the point being to make fun of small-town Middle America. So this is The Dandy Warhols’ kitsch album. I don’t think there’s any question and what this tells me is one thing: despite the fact that they’re successful and they’re 10 albums in, they’re still pretty God dang bitter.