The Dandy Warhols - Earth To The Dandy Warhols
The Dandy's sixth (!) LP – and their first since leaving Daddy Warbucks at Capitol – is, as they say, 'a game of two halves'. The opening half is so shoulder-shruggingly average I was ready to admit the party was over for Portland's midnight tokers. But when the medicine takes effect, something magical happens. Just as the crowd are leaving in tears, they dramatically pull out the big guns, Hollywood-style.
Kick off was promising. The groovy 'The World The People' is Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' in denim and leather, but gets the feet moving. But from there 'til half time it's treading water. 'Mission Control' sounds and smells like vintage but is really Primark. Stood in a line-up next to 'Everyday Should Be A Holiday' it would be deported. 'Welcome To The Third World' is again 'Miss You' by the Stones, the Dandy's default source of inspiration. Despite some amusing lines like “Let's go back to my place so we can talk about Dostoevsky, skin up a fat one” its storytelling is kindergarten compared to say Robbie Robertson's 'Somewhere Down The Crazy River'. Again, not hitting the spot.
At this point I'm looking at my watch. 'Wasp In The Lotus' sounds like Alice In Chains and feels like a street urchin trying to flog you some H-E-R-O-I-N. I quickly run away. 'I Dreamt of Yes'? I'm saying no, Charlie. It screams 'album filler' and only a colourful Mexican trumpeter breaking the fog keeps me from booking the next flight home. 'Talk Radio' keeps me in town for a while longer but it's basically J.Geils Band's 'Centerfold' for stoners.
And then something happens. The opening bars of 'Love Song' feel heaven sent, a break of sunshine, free drinks for everyone! Even when you realise its beautiful banjo melody is yes 'Manic Monday' by The Bangles, it's not important, the party has finally started. Featuring Mark Knopfler (??) and The Heartbreakers' Mike Campbell, its music box simplicity is quite adorable. God the album needed this!
From thereon in it's plain sailing, strike after strike. The sparky 'Now You Love Me' cuts The Vapours' 'Turning Japanese' with some 'Kids In America' chanting and it's 1981 again. With a cleaner production, it would be Hitsville USA. The Stray Cat skiffle and 'Hawaii-Five-O' drums of 'The Legend Of the Last' will have you Canoeing around the house. Amidst a mash-up of Wild West gunfight samples and - at last! - a big chorus it reminds you the Dandys used to be fun.
Ignoring 'Beast Of All Saints' (trippy we-are-floating-in-space nonsense with Muse's 'Muscle Museum' bassline), 'Valerie Yum' is a 7-minute (no! come back) gem. It's a hand-on-hips, finger waggin' boogie as colourful and vibrant as a '70's Saturday morning cartoon with suitably goofy lyrics 'I just don't care no more, Val-eee-yum yum yum'.There's three minutes of Hanna Barbarella fun before it draws to a standstill - like someone saying 'Nooooo' in slow motion. Then, in the classic tradition of 'French Kiss' and 'Suspicious Minds', it gathers speed before taking flight once again. It ends in a 'Kick Out The Jams' /'Louie Louie' riot and comes custom made for Toga parties.
The album closes in Dandy tradition with a 15 minute track of - depending on where your head's at - either deathly dull torture or Hazey Jane loveliness. 'Musee D'Nougat' is quarter of an hour of someone talking food over a Kubrick-esque cinematic synth elegy. I quite liked it, but if it wasn't the last track you would undoubtedly skip it every time.
Oh but I'm forgetting 'Mis Amigos',one of the best things they've ever done and one of the most joyous tracks I've heard all year. It'll be sensational live. From its airport arrival intro to the final sound of someone tearing off on a motorbike it's almost perfect. With its clapping solo breakdown, glitter band drums, Beach Boy cheeriness, it's guaranteed to put a smile on your face. If the suits at the record company put the effort in this could be a serious hit single. It would make the bean-counters at Capitol weep.
For a band infamous for their drug use they've not had a hit in a long time. If, as they say, they “sneeze and hits come out” they could try standing in the rain a little longer. Dandy Warhols, you were a big band but you're in bad shape. This is a full time job, sort it out.
So if you survive the first half you'll get your reward. Frustratingly mischievous, blatantly unoriginal, but with signs of redemptive genius. A typical day at the office for Dandys then. The first half feels like a band trying to claw back some of the artistic credibility their rivals the Brian Jonestown Massacre were afforded in the (brilliant) documentary 'Dig!'. Fading fast, maybe some tough talk at half-time ended with the illuminated decision, 'f**k art, let's dance'.