The Dandy Warhols are an American rock band that I first learned about while I was in high school; their song “Bohemian Like You” caught my attention after being featured in one of my favorite shows, Chuck (it also caught my attention for its rather, ahem, scandalous, uncensored music video). Formed in 1994 in Portland, Oregon, this band has been around for quite a while, yet is still rather underground. They are probably most well-known for singing the theme song for Veronica Mars, but that shouldn’t be people’s sole experience with the band. Though I haven’t listened to them in a while, when I had the opportunity to review their newest LP, Distortland, I grabbed that opportunity. It’s always so intriguing to listen to a band after several years, and hear how they’ve evolved, changed, or grown. In the case of The Dandy Warhols, Distortland gives me nostalgia, yet is also fresh and new.
Distortland is a very appropriate title for the album; the first track from the album, “Search Party,” begins with echoing, reverberating sounds that at first seem discordant, but soon blend into the verse. This somewhat repetitive sound leads us into the second track, “Semper Fidelis.” Once again, an ebb and flow of notes can be heard in the background, which, while lending credence to the album’s title, gets a bit boring at times. The album only picks up on the third track, “Pope Reverence Jim,” which devoted listeners will recognize as classic The Dandy Warhols, with groovy guitar chords and understated vocals. Lead singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor has the unique ability of singing in a low register, while still being understandable (trust me, this is something that a lot of people can mess up). I would, however, like to hear him sing at a decibel higher than fifty. I think the raspy inflection of his voice could be more powerful if it were more audible. This is not meant to be a criticism; I’d just like to hear something stronger. Taylor-Taylor’s voice complements the folk-rock elements in the music; this combination is reminiscent of rural countrysides, campfires, cars driving down never-ending roads, and dive bars. This is perhaps best exemplified in “You Are Killing Me,” which is arguably the catchiest song on an otherwise rather subdued album. This song has a stronger musical backing, which matches the more aggressive lyrics.
Overall, The Dandy Warhols give us solid effort with Distortland. Despite starting off with two rather weak songs, the album really comes into its element about halfway through.There is a grit and authenticity to The Dandy Warhols that can often be missing in more-mainstream music. While the songs are not the catchiest, they are the ones that you want to listen to while stargazing in the desert.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Dine Alone Records
Must-Listen Tracks: “Pope Reverend Jim,” “STYGGO,” “You Are Killing Me”
Buy Distortland on iTunes.