The Portland-based Dandy Warhols (whose new release This Machine drops this week) have developed quite an underground following over the years, with their shoegaze-influenced alt-rock sound, their raucous, carefree party vibe, and their penchant for nudity in their live shows and music videos (which are understandably NOT posted here). While their primary international hit “Bohemian Like You” made them (at least temporarily) a household name, their releases since have done quite poorly on the charts, by most standards. The band’s bread and butter over the years has basically come from a smaller, niche, postmodern hipster crowd that relates most to their outlook.
I don’t expect This Machine to be much different in that regard. But I do find the record itself to be remarkably self-aware.
As far as the overall sound and vibe of the record, it follows standard Dandy Warhols fare pretty faithfully. If you like their sound, you’ll like this record. The opener “Sad Vacation” sets the tone with a catchy beat, and “Enjoy Yourself” seems reminiscent of “Bohemian Like You.” One of the more interesting (if not puzzling) tracks is “Alternative Power to the People,” which is basically a fast rock beat with effected, indiscernible vocals. The band also does an interesting cover of “16 Tons,” but given the apolitical, non-serious nature of the band, the song seems a little out of place not only in the track listing, but also in the entire discography of the band, for that matter.
But what I find most intriguing about This Machine is that whether the band intended it this way or not, it plays as though The Dandy Warhols know their best days are behind them. “I used to be cool,” quips frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor on the tune “Enjoy Yourself,” making the song feel almost like a snide remark targeting “Bohemian Like You.” The song “Rest Your Head” hints at reflection and regret, with lyrics like “Waste some time, waste some money / Talk about your wasted years.” And the last song, “Slide,” sounds just plain mournful.
At worst, critics will probably pan This Machine as a weak effort from a has-been 90’s band. But fans of the band will likely see it as a natural progression. I tend to lean toward the latter view. This isn’t The Dandy Warhols’ best record, but it’s the most fitting thing they could have put out at this time. Certainly much better than a desperate attempt by a band to try and rekindle something they once had.
ALBUM RATING: 3 Stars (out of five)