I imagine that the folks at Capitol Records just kind of throw up their hands when it comes to Courtney Taylor-Taylor and the Dandy Warhols. The Portland, Oregon based band seems to have a different sound every time out, whether it’s writing catchy radio friendly pop songs like “Bohemian Like You” or experimenting with synth pop on Welcome to the Monkey House. You have to think that there’s little to no direction coming from the record company, or if there is, the Dandys are rightfully ignoring it and doing their own thing. Starting as a band heavily influenced by Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, the Dandy Warhols have evolved over the years and tried all sorts of sounds. Their fifth full-length, Odditorium or Warlords of Mars, half named after their studio, is a return to Velvets-style artistry, albeit in a whole new way.
The album begins with what everyone seems to be talking about, a one minute tongue-in-cheek introduction from Bill Kurtis of A&E’s American Justice. After the hilarity, the band goes into “Love is the New Feel Awful,” proving that Courtney and rival Anton Newcombe come up with the best song titles this side of Minus the Bear. The song is one of the most accessible on the record, at least the first half which would give other Velvet inspired band, the Jesus & Mary Chain, a run for their money. Halfway through the nine-plus minute song, things definitely go the way of the VU as squonky jams ensue. The same is true for the follower, “Easy,” lasting just over seven minutes. After a radio-friendly tune in “All the Money or the Simple Life Honey” and the Dandys’ twist on country with the aptly titled, “The New Country,” we have another long one with the toe tapper, “Holding Me Up.”
After a brief interlude of “Did You Make a Song With Otis” which, according to their website was originally called “Jamaica,” we get to some of the more accessible songs on the record. (By the way, if you go to the band’s website, you might want to have your 3-D glasses handy.) “Everyone is Totally Insane” is pure Dandy Warhols, a little mixture of everything from ’80s pop to ’60s rock and everything in between. Love & Rockets come to mind with this one. The first single, “Smoke It,” plays next and is pure Lou Reed, with slight dashes of Iggy Pop, Beck and David Bowie (and maybe even a little bit of Eddie Money’s “Shakin'”, though when he says `yeah’ it sounds like the Romantics).
The wonderful “Down Like Disco” is one of the best songs, not only on the record, but also that the Dandys have ever done. It’s tight, controlled, measured yet fun and has Taylor-Taylor’s sweet falsetto. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up to be a second single, or at least in TV commercials or in the background of WB or Fox shows. Unfortunately, the album ends on a sour note with “A Loan Tonight,” a song which could have resulted after a night of heavy drug use while listening to Suicide’s first album. The track gets tedious rather quickly, and that fact that it lasts for over eleven minutes just prolongs that boredom.
All in all, however, Odditorium is another good Dandy Warhols album. At this point, after five albums of hits and misses, they might benefit from what their rivals the Brian Jonestown Massacre did and compile the best songs onto one album. I’m all for experimentation, and actually really like the VU inspired first few songs, but that last one did me in.
The Velvet Underground- The Velvet Underground
The Jesus & Mary Chain- Psychocandy
Ride- Carnival of Light