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“Dolby’s Top 25 Dandy Warhols Songs”

Wow, I didn’t see this coming: for how bad this band pi**es me off sometimes, my DD rating of Why You So Crazy would be higher than the vast majority of others in the blogosphere. It turns out I guess that I just appreciate their weirdness, apparently, more than most others can — it’s that same founding weirdness which helped to inform their old stuff like Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, which was one of my favorite CD’s in high school.

Not that I made this list especially “weird”… he**… why DID I put this list together… your guess is as good as mine. They just seem to occupy my interest, for how unfocused they can come across as sometimes, for how much they can sometimes seem to disdain their audience (a practice they would then share with the Pixies’ Black Francis, auspiciously enough) and for how much their “singer” can rely on that grotesquely laconic monotone croon, they are undeniably coming from a place of a certain perspectival singularity, and they MAYBE have fun making albums, which, seeing as they own a giant living quarters/recording studio in midtown Portland called the “Odditorium,” would certainly seem to make sense. But I don’t think anybody’s passing any drug tests in the “Odditorium.” I’ll put it that way.

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25 “Cool Scene” (Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia)

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Usually it’s the common prevailing preference to say music doesn’t exist in a vacuum, that it’s part of the larger culture, and that it informs and unites the world in a way that assimilates it to the things around it, rather than trying to separate. Well, ironically, this is the exact opposite of the way I hear “Cool Scene” and the better part of this LP as a whole, as would be already indicated by the lyrics themselves, which almost seem to ostracize the ostracizers with incisive rock-and-roll sneer, and then, of course, culminate in the glorious denouement of “Baby it’s all me”.

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24 “Styggo” (Distortland)

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The bookend on an extension of songs on Distortland’s side a so glorious that there should be a documentary about it, “Styggo” assumes probably the most default “Dandies” m.o. of them all with a deliberate, riffy lo-fi groove (the type of thing I’m finally kind of sick of in the wake of Why You So Crazy and which maybe the only reason I wasn’t sick of by Distortland was that I’d taken from ’04 through ’16 off from listening to this band because of how awful Welcome to the Monkey House was).

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23 “The Last High” (Welcome to the Monkey House)

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Lampooned on an album of flaccid dross, “The Last High” is at very least CATCHY, a noticeable stylistic break from the haunted lo-fi of Thirteen Tales of Urban Bohemia to dance-pop… yeah Prince is an influence on this band as I think we’ll pertly observe on Why You So Crazy, if we’re sharp enough.

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22 “Shakin’” (Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia)

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Is this music DATED now? Well if it is, it’s only because at one point this was one of the best fu**ing bands on the planet and this music informed everything in America, even the dress, down to the tattered jeans, piercings and tattoos. Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s laconic spoken-word drawl finds its summit on this particular track, too, even I think doing a little Harry Caray impression with the final cadence of “Back back back back back…”

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21 “Search Party” (Distortland)

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Yeah, I mean I still don’t get why this isn’t regarded as one of the best albums of the 2010’s… actually in the Consequence of Sound review the fungal growth responsible for the writing began the review with an entire paragraph about the last thing on the album, which is Courtney Taylor-Taylor over a sort of vaudeville mini-finale song quipping in jest that “I’m too old for this”, a statement that the reviewer then took in earnest and took as a negation of the musical quality of Distortland. So yeah, there’s a person out there who sits down and listens to an entire rock album, scours it for flaws, finally finds a semantic flaw with the final moment of the album which isn’t even an artistic flaw, and attempts to offer it as a reason why the album isn’t good. The douche bag also claimed that the Dandy Warhols weren’t “doing anything new,” despite that the second track on this album is basically metal-industrial with a warped, spliced vocal and the third one is like if Bowie sang boogie on coke with Girls against Boys, a nervous splendor of a song. I mean, I don’t know what else to say. This sh**’s great. “Search Party” is the poppy album opener that illustrates the band’s ’60s pop influence.

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20 “Sleep” (Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia)

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“Sleep” is a very beautiful song forming the excellent Thirteen Tales side b one-two punch along with “Get off.” About as simple as a getting-dumped séance can be, its only lyrics are “Well I could sleep forever / But it’s of her I’d dream / If I could sleep forever / I could forget about everything”, the song then dissipating into this orchestral, multi-part vocal arrangement. It’s neither ironic nor laconic in any way, but rather a completely earnest swatch of mourning, which ergo serves somewhat to prove the band’s versatility.

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19 “Good Morning” (The Dandy Warhols Come down)

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With this album, I was impressed from the start by the purposefulness of the grooves and just the sense of gravity that it had (it appeared in the band’s early, hungry years, none too surprisingly in light of this). “Good Morning” then is an absolute clinic in sonic layering, with this celestial, otherworldly guitar tone barking in on the intro then to invite a more conventional, but warm electric-acoustic rhythm guitar on top of that one. Then there’s Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s voice, which is always sort of an amusing wild card: here I think he sounds happy, which we’re always sort of relieved about, and the performance though somewhat dry and “cool” is also melodic and rhythmic, tokening a love for rock and roll and what the band is doing on a holistic level.

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18 “Wasp in the Lotus” (Earth to the Dandy Warhols)

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I sort of hate the whole “return to form” tab that lots of writers like to put on certain albums because I think change and metamorphosis are not only integral to art but are actually themselves artistic entities. Be that as it may, it’s hard to really know what else to call this 2008 escapade by the Dandies which followed two albums I can only nobly call atrocious (that is once again here the sound actually had an edge quality and the songs seemed to be about something other than the band’s palpable disdain for its audience).

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17 “Next Thing I Know” (Why You So Crazy)

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Eh… eh… eh… eh… eh… this album gets a bad rap… it definitely isn’t ALL bad… this song for instance entertained the sh** out of me, the second song on this list that’s going to make me bring up Prince as an influence and boasting of this head-spinningly elaborate spliced riff on the synth which basically but entertainingly governs the entire song (the lyrics which seem to embody transition bespeaking their own secondary relevance to the proceedings, in a sense).

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16 “Highlife” (Why You So Crazy)

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Why am IIII so crazy? Why are youuuu so crazy, Zia McCabe, the bassist apparently responsible for this irreverent slab of girl-punk which for its disarming female directness would be fit for a T-Rextasy album, except that it sounds like if T-Rextasy spent about 20 years smoking, drinking beer and hooking up with random boys after a night at the honky tonk. It’s got the repetitive, traditional structure of rockabilly, basically, while also representing on Why You So Crazy a sort of benchmark in production, with an intro that boasts that sort of electronica-lite Girls against Boys thing the band seems wrapped up in now, then warm, ambient rhythm guitars and a terrific solo slathered in grungy distortion. It’s a great exercise in balancing, in that way.

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15 “Godless” (Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia)

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“Godless,” the opener on Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, was my introduction to The Dandy Warhols and I guess I kind of have this thing where I like them INSTEAD OF My Bloody Valentine, with this track forming a close phonetic parallel to “Loveless,” obviously, and carrying a similar lugubrious, languid mood. It kicks off an album that requires a punctilious listen and one with a high tolerance for vituperative emotion, but which rewards said listen enumeratively with enticing variation and a lot of genuineness, also.

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14 “Pope Reverend Jim” (Distortland)

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I had this song in my head all day yesterday… it’s a jitterly wonderland of a tune that as I think I mentioned before reminds me of David Bowie singing boogie with Girls against Boys, which is to say it’s stupendously entrenched in this crack-rock brand of synth madness the band seems prone to indulging in on their last two albums. What I like about this particular selection more than anything is the sort of animal-like quality that Taylor-Taylor’s voice carries, leaving all things worldly and mundane for a truly singular studio experience.

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13 “Get off” (Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia)

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This song comes on the “center” of this top 25 list as it does on the “center,” at track seven, of the 13- song Tales from Urban Bohemia record and really, it is about as centrist of a Dandy Warhols song as you get, a six-eight stomping groove similar to Green Day’s “Holiday” which like “Holiday” zeroes in on a certain governing tenet the singer chooses to artistically employ. In this case, of course, it’s the desire for oblivion, or the desire for lack of desire, presaging beautifully the heartbreaking impending track of “Sleep,” here.

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12 “Minnesoter” (The Dandy Warhols Come down)

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God, the SOUND here: it’s just so Marine Girls, or the rhythm guitar sector of My Bloody Valentine sans Sonic Youth caterwaul (I’m not a huge fan of that band and like I said prefer “Godless” to “Loveless”), and then Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s biting sneer takes vocal form again, like it has a way of doing. I’m really not sure why Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia is considered the band’s authoritative album and not this one.

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11 “Sad Vacation” (This Machine)

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Actually for a long time I didn’t even know this conventional but kinetic straight-ahead romper was called “Sad Vacation,” let alone having taken in the video for it which actually just depicts a “sad vacation” of boredom and ennui out in the wilderness. Eek, guys! Marketing was never these guys’ speciality, evident by how they were making hard-working, blue-collar alt-rock when ska and swing were ruling the world, and then elevating themselves to tacky NME godhead status when underdog indie earnestness had taken over.

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10 “Catcher in the Rye” (Distortland)

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Here’s another one with a video, dude, n iss. pretty cool… album title Welcome to the Monkey House, named after a Kurt Vonnegut collection of short stories, can be cited as the band’s other prominent titular literary reference. The song is like a nice hard-working Monkees pumper.

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9 “Bohemian Like You” (Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia)

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Oh God, I was going to try to look up the video for this song, since I’m droning on infinitely about videos and everything, but I cannot stand these skinny, dorky looking dudes or all this drag sh**… I guess it’s the Midwesterner in me… don’t ask me why I’m even writing about The Dandy Warhols anyway. Someone stole my Local H CD, I think.

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8 “Boys Better” (The Dandy Warhols Come down)

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Gah… just love this guitar sound, these grooves and this whole dang album… I have a hard time actually listening to just one song because this is really an LP you can put on and enjoy all the way straight through, a top 50 LP of the 1990s, quite arguably.

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7 “The Creep out” (The Dandy Warhols Come down)

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“The Creep out” is the extended, nine-minute album finale on The Dandy Warhols Come down, and with its identity I guess you could say represents the ultimate sort of “come down” of them all — it does, anyway, with its gutbucket drum sound, this other strange thing that sort of sounds like a guiro and these crazy warped synths, have a similar sort of hypnotic quality to the closeur on Liars’ They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, slowly squeezing out all of the annoyance of everyday life from your system and letting you know there’s a group of musicians out there with at least your need for patience.

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6 “Country Leaver” (Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia)

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Now the main thing here is obviously the double entendre of “country” in the title here which is pretty clever, and with this being arguably the Dandies’ only “country” song, slide guitar taking overwhelming prominence over the proceedings (and there’s those hand claps again… c’est la vie…) oh yeah and it’s homo-erotic and the Dandies are from a place where such a thing is way more acceptable than country music, which could have some contribution to the amount of alluring tension at hand, of course.

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5 “Autumn Carnival” (This Machine)

Apparently this is like a “fan favorite” and I’m not that special for liking it… well liking it I do and I think with this project the band becomes one of the few units ever to actually successfully glean an Elliott Smith influence (he’s undoubtedly more adept at channeling influences than emitting them, as it were), even with the lyrical subject matter too pertaining to these sort of trite, traditional celebrations which might bring to mind his excellent “Rose Parade.”

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4 “Semper Fidelis” (Distortland)

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Ok, this is PROBABLY going to be my last rant on this post about how underrated Distortland is, seeing as this is the last Distortland song on this list, but yeah, it’s definitely not a case of “not doing anything new,” although maybe some of these critics had strange S&M experiences involving Courtney Taylor-Taylor and a “Gimp” costume somewhere in their past which they then equated with the matter on Distortland. Yup, that must be the one.

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3 “Orange” (The Dandy Warhols Come down)

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With a slow, haunting quality a lot like Tortoise might pull off, “Orange” helps tie the mid part of The Dandy Warhols Come down together, a slow, haunting stratagem prevailing over this fourth track with dark riffs that Queens of the Stone Age might have been proud to pull off.

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2 “Green” (The Dandy Warhols Come down)

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“Green” is sort of the second “dogstar” type of track on The Dandy Warhols Come down, completing the album’s color-coding theme, wielding this pointedly beautiful rhythm guitar tone for an ambient ballad, calling once again Elliott Smith to mind although probably using way better studio rudiments and techniques than he could ever must. And to think this was the band’s major label debut.

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1 “Big Indian” (Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia)

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This one was definitely a grower for me, its prevailing and formative trait being again that extreme level of patience that seems to bespeak an undeniably purposeful disposition honed in the songwriting craft. On paper, sure, there’s lots juicy talking points here, like the otherworldly organ solo, the fact that it’s an almost hilariously placid penultimate album track or the great line “My old man told me one time / You never get wise you only get older”, but really, it seems foolish even to discuss any of these as without the whole, the individual parts become demoted in effect, as if in a well functioning and sovereign system of rock and roll.

 

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