The Dandy Warhols – This Machine
The Portland quartet known as The Dandy Warhols have no doubt had a testing few years since the disappointment of 2008’s Earth to the Dandy Warhols . Produced in association with Jeremy Sherrer, This Machine is the band’s most solemn and most evidently moody LP to date, offering a strange concoction of cheek and gothic reserve.
Album opener Sad Vacation is driven by a subdued yet typically robotic bass line and Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s hushed tones, shaping a quite unassuming introduction to the LP. Enjoy Yourself becomes the strange antithesis to the album’s first two tracks. It sees Taylor-Taylor revive a slightly creepy interpretation of a quirky cabaret lyrical style, as he becomes increasingly comparable to the vocal stylings of Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The song shows that the band’s cheek is at least still partially intact, with lyrics such as “I used to be cool / Used to be a fool / Too cool for rules man / Too cool for school”.
Alternative Power To The People is a two and a half minute instrumental track, it’s robotic and heavily distorted guitar lines creating an enjoyable quasi-Queens of the Stone Age aesthetic. The gypsy ballad which follows, titled Well They’re Gone, is the LP’s first single. Its dark and broody atmosphere is quite psychedelic, if only because of Taylor-Taylor’s almost monotone statements and the cry of an accompanying theremin. Rest Your Head is a clean guitar-centred indie track, its uplifting chorus proclaiming “Don’t you worry, till tomorrow / Heaven knows you surely will… Close the blinds and set your mind at ease”. The song builds to a brilliant sing-a-long section at the very end, returning us to the Dandys we’ve come to know so well.
16 Tons is a cover of a song originally recorded by Merle Travis back in 1946. The song has been covered numerous times, yet remains thematically relevant to the state of the global economy. The Dandy’s version is an oddity, yet is quite quaint in its own right. Centred around a baritone saxophone, it’s a little heavier than the original, but the track adds to the quirkiness of the album as a whole.
SETI vs The Wow! Signal features a swagger and attitude which is unfortunately rarely seen throughout the rest of the album with its funk-rock riffs. The song’s catchy hooks couple with its thematic concerns to exude an optimistic infatuation with life beyond Earth, Taylor-Taylor exclaiming in the first chorus “Don’t look up – It’s the wow signal / Extraterrestrial now / There’s people up in the sky / Up in the sky comin’ down”. This will no doubt be one of the standout tracks for die-hard fans.
This Machine is nothing revolutionary in the progression of The Dandy Warhols. However, it is a unique hybrid of cheek and aloofness – a hybrid the band have become famous for incorporating into their song-writing formulae. As an album it is quite unassuming, with some hauntingly dark moments revealing a subdued maturity which has arisen from within the group. There is little doubt that there are some low points, in which the band seem to be simply going through the motions. Taylor-Taylor’s vocals are slightly stagnant at times, but this is not without purpose. The eclectic cheek of the band has remained intact, and continues to act as a release from the over-constructed aesthetics of some indie-rock groups.