The Dandy Warhols: This Machine

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Dandy Warhols, This MachineThe Dandy Warhols: This Machine
Only a few truly special artists exercise longevity by staying exciting and spirited over the course of many years. The greats can do it; Paul Simon, Tom Waits, Radiohead come to mind. And while the Dandy Warhols haven’t been around that long (they formed in 1994), they are certainly veterans of the genre at this point. Such standing puts them in a crucial position on this album. After a string of albums that didn’t really approach 2000’s Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia in terms of quality, The Dandy Warhols have to prove to us that they are capable veterans and not, well, old. Unfortunately This Machine never really gets off the ground, never indicating that the Dandy Warhols are in the mood for making exciting, new music.
The album opens with “Sad Vacation” a forgettable song that doesn’t accomplish anything in terms of setting the album’s tone. It’s essentially color-by-numbers rock with a generic guitar riff, some reverb and lyrics that do not make much of an impact. Its successor, “The Autumn Carnival” has a bit more of a punk feel to it, and there’s a sense of comfort in Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s moody vocals that stand as the centerpiece of the song, while never dominating it. Later on, “Enjoy Yourself” is easily the most frustrating ‒ dare I say, soul-crushing? ‒ song on the record. It’s probably the most “pop” song on the album, with a solid chorus and some psychedelic synth interludes, which I’m always a sucker for. But the lyrics. Oh, the lyrics. The songwriting here just lacks any sort of nuance and, for a veteran band, it sounds startlingly amateur. “I used to be cool,” croons Taylor-Taylor, “Too cool for rules/too cool for school.” It’s just vapid and essentially destroys any of the song’s redeeming qualities. You almost wonder if they’re just messing with you.
There are a few songs on this album masquerading as experimental, yet really they’re just highly instrumental but still ultimately lazy and uninteresting. The latter half of the album settles into a bit more of a groove. “I Am Free” is the first time that the Dandy Warhols seem to be having any sort of fun. It’s well-written and the extensive use of horns adds a jolt of life that this album was thirsting for. It stands as a welcome departure from the dull, dispirited songs like “Well They’re Gone” that inhabit This Machine’s first half.
Aside from “Enjoy Yourself” there’s nothing on this album that is offensively terrible. It’s simply dull and never really wakes up. The songwriting is all over the place and they take a few sonic chances that really add nothing. It also doesn’t have enough of an overriding, album-wide theme to weave it together and make up for its lack of stand-out songs. Longtime fans will of course be excited about hearing the band’s new music. Yet, judging by this album’s tone, they may be dismayed to find that the Dandy Warhols are comparatively less excited about making new music.
Rating: 4.7/10
MP3: The Dandy Warhols “I Am Free”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl

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