|Photo by: Amazon|
Key Tracks: “16 Tons,” “Slide”
If the ‘90s taught us anything other than how to dress like a fashionable hobo, it’s that garage rock and neo-psychedelia go hand in hand.
Just ask The Dandy Warhols. This band found huge success by merging those two aforementioned genres and giving the result a nice, commercially polished finish. Though a little strange, they were still accessible at the height of their career, managing to score commercial success by uttering the phrase, “Heroin is so passé.”
However, after 2000’s critically acclaimed Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, The Dandy Warhols decided that the ‘90s were so passé and the synth players of the ‘80s were so underrated.
The genre hopping continued with the band’s 2005 psychedelic venture, Odditorium or Warlords of Mars and 2008’s mostly electronic ...Earth to the Dandy Warhols....
Fast forward to 2012 and This Machine. Oh Dandys, what happened? This album sounds like a mix of every ‘90s music fad blended into a fine paste. Have you ever tried paste? It's bland, tasteless and downright awful.
While listening to the first minute of “Sad Vacation,” you’ll bob your head along to that sludgy bass line and say, “Why, this isn’t bland at all! This is pretty rad!”
It is rad, for the first minute. After a minute and a half, key into the steady drumbeat and wait for things to pick up. Wait. Wait. Okay, get bored because this song doesn’t go anywhere.
Unfortunately, that is a common theme on This Machine. The band will get into a steady groove that isn’t bad by most standards, but the song will stay at that mediocre level for well over three and a half minutes. This same fate befalls tracks such as “The Autumn Carnival,” “Rest Your Head” and “I Am Free.”
“I Am Free,” for example, has a promising start with a guitar sound reminiscent of the opening to The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Unlike that Who tune, this track lacks an explosive finale, or an explosive anything for that matter.
Though “Rest Your Head” is one of the most accessible tracks on the album, it’s also the most boring. The tempo drags slightly, even with the light-as-a-feather guitar work, and the vocals make the whole song sound like a lazier version of “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm.”
Not every track on This Machine follows that trend. There’s a second category for the songs that went a little too far, but it also includes some of the highlights.
“Well They’re Gone” is an intriguing song at best, but most casual listeners will find it to be a little too out there. The keyboards give it an eerie ghost-carnival feel and the hushed vocals add a little mystery to the mix. A gorgeous acoustic melody surfaces about three-quarters of the way through, but quickly disappears. Had that guitar hung in there this would have been a great track.
“16 Tons,” on the other hand, has all the elements of a great song by another artist. Once you wake up from the coma that is “Rest Your Head,” “16 Tons” hits your face with a bold blues saxophone. Though it’s a little out of place on a Dandy Warhols record, “16 Tons” is funky, fresh and just a tad insane.
This Machine ends on a high note with “Slide,” a track that manages to avoid “too much” and “not enough” categories. The echoing guitar/keyboard combo makes it somewhat spacey, without floating away. It has the eeriness of “Well They’re Gone” without the ghost-carnival backdrop. “Slide” brings an album filled with misses to an almost satisfying close.
Is This Machine a terrible album? Not really. Are The Dandy Warhols capable of producing something better? Absolutely. This record seems like a stepping stone to another critical hit like Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia. The Dandys aren’t finished yet.
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