Album Reviews

The Dandy Warhols – Rockmaker

(Sunset Blvd) UK release date: 15 March 2024

The most quintessential ’90s band of them all prove they still know how to rock with the best of them

The Dandy Warhols - Rockmaker Think of a guitar band that summed up the 1990s, and you’d probably say Nirvana. Or, if you’re on this side of the Atlantic, Oasis (or Blur, or Pulp depending on your preference). However, there’s an argument to be had that the most quintessential ’90s band of them all was The Dandy Warhols.

As well as a string of hits – Bohemian Like You, Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth, Get Off – they also provided the theme tune to cult teen TV show Veronica Mars (We Used To Be Friends) and also had a starring role in that documentary of rock star ego and excess, Dig!. In fact, it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn they’re still together, this year celebrating their 30th year together as a band.

To celebrate the occasion, they’ve roped in some star names as guests. Guns N’ Roses‘ guitarist Slash adds his signature riffs to I’d Like To Help You With Your Problem, while the PixiesBlack Francis can be heard on the excellently titled Danzig With Myself. And is that the legendary Deborah Harry duetting with Courtney Taylor-Taylor on the closing I Will Never Stop Loving You? Why, yes it is.

While there are no big surprises on Rockmaker, most of the tracks on the album are as instantly addictive as in their heyday. Opening track The Doomsday Bells opens up with Taylor-Taylor simply reciting “Ding dong, ring a ding dong” before sliding into a fuzzy, scuzzy anthem about feeling out of touch with the world around him. It’s a song that sums up a lot of the dislocation that a post-pandemic society can create.

The pandemic looms large over Rockmaker. Teutonic Wine sounds like it could have been written in the midst of lockdown, with Taylor-Taylor reminiscing about travelling round the world and staying in hotels: “Remember jets? They were the best” delivered in an admirably deadpan way by Taylor-Taylor. The Summer Of Hate is surf-pop fed through a blender, with more nihilism running through the lyrics – “I don’t even know really what that feeling is” runs the chorus.

The aforementioned Danzig With Myself casts a scathing eye over the political system: “Half the people alive today are fucking idiots… surely it’s they who brought about our end of days” sings Taylor-Taylor over a grinding, sludgy rhythm. Appropriately enough, given that the guest vocalist is Black Francis, there’s a couple of nods towards Trompe le Monde-era Pixies.

The best moments though are the lighter ones. Root Of All Evil is an absolute blast, sounding like, in the best possible way, that everything’s been thrown at the song: some horns, a skiffle-beat and a chorus of “I want to get higher… and HIGHER”. That’s followed by another excellently titled track, Alcohol And Cocainemarijunanicotine, a song with a chorus as addictive as the substances it namechecks, and a spoken word drawl from Taylor-Taylor which has you bopping along in your seat. It’s like Alabama 3 covering Queens of The Stone Age‘s Feel Good Hit Of The Summer, and that is a very good thing.

The final track is a bit of a curveball, and all the better for it – a big, dramatic, almost cinematic ballad with Debbie Harry, I Will Never Stop Loving You. There are touches of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds in the orchestration, and it swirls and swoops around Taylor-Taylor and Harry’s vocals until slowly coming to a halt. It’s a fine way to conclude an album from a band who, although they may never re-create their ’90s heyday, still know how to rock with the best of them.

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