The Dandy Warhols This Machine(The End Records) Buy it from Insound
It’s probably in the second fifth of Alternative Power To The People (Track 4) that you finally surrender to disappointment. Sad Vacation, the opener, is the quintessential Dandy Warhols track; crackling and distorted; relentless and determined. The Autumn Carnival evolves out of a downbeat arpeggio and punchy rhythm to deliver vocals in the usual deadpan manner, then Enjoy Yourself grunges into life. Even at this point the lyrics begin to become a little choppy; the song conception isn’t mindful but the music is, at least, alive.
I think it is probably unfortunate, if you like, that The Dandy Warhols were doing this stuff before most of their modern contemporaries. They came out of post-punk Portland scorching guitar licks over droning bass thuds before probably anyone, pissing off a few critics in the process and remaining admirably experimental. So, in many ways it isn’t their fault that this record falters – they have, I’m sure, inspired many bands who have innovated the sound to a further plateau – the trouble is that perhaps they aren’t aware of their own position: the inspiration rather than the genius.
Fair enough. This isn’t just a three chord chug of a record - there are more delicate moments (perhaps a sign of maturity), however, they are about as emotionally affecting as a sausage roll. Take Rest Your Head, the vocal delivery is more from the ilk of an off-kilter Shane McGowan, pissed and rambling through some learned advice that only he, the wise one, could articulate. And I think that’s the problem; it’s patronising.
Aversely, the more ‘energetic’ tracks fail to invigorate and actually induce an odd feeling of depravity, in terms of the amount lacking. Not upon a single occasion can you seduce a drop of integrity, desire or emotional connection – and maybe I’m missing the point and the cynical, robotic nature of the record is a metaphor for ‘the machine,’ ‘the big wigs,’ the bankers and the CEO’s. The comparison is clear: this Machine, this world, this democracy, this capitalist fuck-up – I get that notion, but what else have they to contribute to the argument?
A few lines from 16 Tons – You load 16 Tons and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt. St. Peter don’t you call me ‘cos I can’t go, I sold my soul to the company store – but it isn’t interesting or cutting or meaningful, it’s banal: it’s been said. The same old story of how most people live their lives in the west at the throne of capitalism, begging for mercy. As soon as you enter politics as a musician you need either wit, or truth, and this has neither. Not a real truth; nothing to inspire or enthuse a spotty kid with a fake Fender to think they could change the world with six strings. It’s a lazy attempt at sarcasm that lacks creativity and vigour; combine that with a cringe-worthy melody and you have yourself a disaster.
That said, this is at least something memorable from the record. Most of the tedious tracks pass you by in a sort of, ‘Remember me? The one you hate,’ kind of manner. They’re trying to be the wise owls of rock, expressing their take on the downfall of modern society; the problem is, they’re just not very good at it. I have no issue with the music itself, it’s fine - perhaps at little directionless - but essentially its post-punk epithet is prominent and honest. That’s who they are. I think if they concentrated more on what made them want to make music in the first place - the apocalyptic bass and heavy drums; crashing guitars and plain but characteristic vocals- it would at least be coming from a genuine place. After all, they have been a band for eighteen years with pretty much the same line- maybe they have ran out of ideas, and who could blame them? But perhaps, as I was always taught, if you have nothing worthwhile to say, don’t say it.
Are they at their most creative here? Absolutely not. Are there interesting moments that could lead to better things? I don’t think so. So, where do the Dandy Warhols find themselves? I can’t believe for a single second that this is the music that invigorates them to believe in what they’re doing. Perhaps, they do have a message that is profound, but it has been catastrophically shrouded in vanity that pervades most of the tracks, if not all. The manner in which they choose to express themselves portends to a focus which is more on the orator rather than the subject matter. It is much more about how clever they, or rather, vocalist Courtney Taylor-Taylor is trying to be than the actual point of argument – and quite frankly, it’s fucking boring.