To the casual listener, there are a few misconceptions about Portland quartet The Dandy Warhols so let’s put the record straight. Firstly, they might be renowned for one single – Bohemian Like You – thanks largely to a Vodafone TV advert, but they are far from one hit wonders. They’ve knocked out a plethora of excellent singles including Every Day Should Be A Holiday, Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth, We Used To Be Friends and You Were The Last High to name but a handful.
Secondly, they’re not at odds with The Brian Jonestown Massacre, as portrayed in the misleading film Dig! Careful editing may have won its creator acclaim but it was a partial representation of a relationship. Thirdly, but probably not lastly, they’re not excessive drug users and exhibitionists; whilst this may have (allegedly) been the case in the past, they’ve all grown up and accepted family responsibilities, so these days you’re more likely to see a rank 5,000-1 outsider take the Premiership crown than see keyboardist Zia McCabe with her tits out on stage.
Album wise they’ve made quite an impression in the past. The much forgotten debut Dandys Rule OK? from 1995 is rarely given the credit it deserves; the superb It’s A Fast Driving Rave Up With The Dandy Warhols Sixteen Minutes could go on forever and still be enjoyable. And it does. And it is. Second album Come Down was masterful but it unjustly lives in the shadow of the brilliant Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia, thanks mainly to the album’s huge single. Other highlights came and went and then 2012’s This Machine arrived, an album that confirmed the band still had plenty to offer almost 20 years after they formed.
So it is with some considerable disappointment that new collection Distortland doesn’t quite reach the same heights. Equally at home with the short pop single as they are with lengthy jams, the new album contains just two tracks over four minutes long. STYGGO is set to a medium paced disco beat and would be a triumph had it capitalised on its excellent melody but this is tempered by a lack of lyrics for its agonisingly close-to-perfection chorus.
Doves is the other ‘long’ cut, and it’s one of the best of the lot, melodic guitars weave above a wall of sound for a sublime effort. It could, and should, have been a euphoric album closer but instead the band bizarrely tacked a sub two-minute plod of total dirge on the end in the shape of The Grow Up Song. At the other end of the album, opener Search Party is a decent curtain raiser, a constant riff combining with Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s breathy vocals to good effect. The bouncy, rock ‘n’ roll sounding Pope Reverend Jim shows the band have retained their lighthearted fun side whilst a catchy chorus elevates the otherwise distinctly average Catcher In The Rye.
Elsewhere, Semper Fidelis utilises a scritchy-scratchy riff for a bland monotone effort that sounds rather weak and irritating but single You Are Killing Me is far more appealing, the melodies being more memorable despite fleetingly reminding of The Killers’ Read My Mind in places. The mellow Give also serves as a reminder for the band’s past but in comparison is a little disappointing, more like a resonating echo of past songs than a potential peer.
And that’s the main issue with Distortland. It too often sounds like a diluted version of what’s gone before, a collection that struggles to reach the highs of old. The band’s biggest fans are likely to go through a multitude of emotions before accepting that, as evidenced by Taylor-Taylor’s increasingly breathless vocals, this might just be the first signs of their favourite band finally running out of puff and coming down.