Partially cast as the lacklustre corporate-friendly band in Dig!, The Dandy Warhols were resigned to the square category when compared to Anton Newcombe’s progressively indie role fronting The Brian Jonestown Massacre. What was also immensely clear from the film was that the Warhols represented the average drug-using band in the face of Newcombe’s terrifying display of instability.
Now, as The Brian Jonestown Massacre continue to melt into relative obscurity, The Dandy Warhols re-emerge with their sixth album. Employing a certain 2001 theme, Courtney Taylor-Taylor and company have added to the growing list of space-aged albums with …Earth To The Dandy Warhols…. They use massive amounts of reverb and layers of effects to convey the idea that this album might have been recorded from alien transmissions.
…Earth To The Dandy Warhols… displays just enough innovation to keep things fresh, especially when compared to other conceptually linked works, like The Strokes‘ First Impressions of Earth. Distorted vocals, garbled instrument emissions paired with glimmering synths, and noise-pop experiments abound. And even though it can get pretentious at times (the title of the track Musee D’Nougat says it all, doesn’t it?), the experiments in sound are never trite.
Moments of true magic burst through the seams of the album – the slipshod guitar solo on Talk Radio, the magnificent hip bounce of opener The World The People Together (Come On), the follow up choral grunge of Mission Control. The group try their best Mr. Bungle impression on The Legend Of The Last Of The Outlaw Truckers AKA The Ballad Of Sheriff Sho (can you hear the impending lawsuit from Sufjan Stevens for pilfering his pretentious song title idea?), but fall short without any haphazard time signature or style changes.
While some songs threaten to overindulge in different styles (notably the funky Welcome To The Third World), the musical diversions never stray too far from the comfortable realm of modern indie pop-rock. The final songs are the farthest from the norm, with Valerie Yum boasting an irreverent, poppy, yet all too catchy chorus followed by a strange fallout section.
Rounding out the absurdity is the 15-minute final track, which harkens back to White Light/White Heat-era Velvet Underground, with a man reading incoherent words without inflection and a soothing backing track that rises and falls.
The Dandy Warhols’ unabashed appreciation of Lou Reed is apparent at many other points in the album as well. Taylor-Taylor alternatively barks out spoken words and tries his hand at melodious crooning. Backing him up, the band’s sound is intoxicating, building swells of noisy energy over a steady undercurrent. Repetition is key to this music’s success, and it’s a notable feat that the band are able to entertain across 55 minutes of music (remember that the last track is rubbish).
Taken as a whole, …Earth To The Dandy Warhols… stands to push the boundary of listenable experimental rock. Merging the sounds of space rock with an element of trance and a smattering of early Velvet Underground experimentation, the group ends up with an enticing album that holds a fresh mix of sounds.