The Dandy Warhols – This Machine

3.5/5

Genre: Alternative Rock

Release Date: 4/24/2012

Record Label: The End Records

 

 

 

 

 

This Machine, The Dandy Warhols’ latest moment of pop mesh is remarkably dipped in the very waters they have emerged from in the Pacific Northwest. Their accessible party-pop anthems that intertwine with psychedelic melodies have always been the image they have exhibited in the last twenty years, but This Machine starts off with a lunging bass attack and distortion only akin to grungier days of the early 90s in “Sad Vacation.”  It only resigns to that status for a short period of time; instead Zia McCabe enters the fray and shakes the construct with a playful keyboard movement that moves along with Courtney Taylor-Taylor. It is a surprising development for a group that have had their feet entrenched in many happy-go lucky moments. This 2012 effort is a changing of the guard for a group that have long been a caricature of successful synth-pop, yet it is a devastating and dim personality most can get behind. The band admits to being heavy-handed on their use of Pro Tools in their production methods upon …Earth To The Dandy Warhols… (2008) and as guitarist Peter Holmström put it, “The new record is a reaction to that.” This far more stripped-down nature is both engaging, indifferent to fluidity and laced with negativity, something un-Dandy Warhol-like. It is indeed a far gloomier record as most grunge records were accustomed too in their heyday; This Machine only owns that tag in that loose sense.

No one can blame them for a sterner attitude upon this release post-Capitol Records, after all the problems that label gave them it seems plausible, forced or otherwise that they would be a bit angsty. The overall mood of the album never subsides entirely, only for a few short moments do we get a toned down, less experimental version of This Machine and when that occurs it is for the better. The follow-up to the opener is “The Autumn Carnival,” in which a grunt-like “oh” appears to break after Taylor’s somber vocals, a much needed cathartic lapse, but eventually The Dandy Warhols implemented chorus brings that consistently in due time. The most endearing quality about This Machine is that beneath the distortion, reverb and fuzz that the band gleefully embodies, they still know how to make accessible pop-driven tracks. While, in hindsight it may seem they have moved within a broader stroke of Indie Rock, The Dandy Warhols remain masters at crafting both lyrically and musically exciting ride. “Enjoy Yourself,” in a mockingly tease, is the proof that they still have that exuberant character, but they choose to pin it beneath far more edgy sound than they are accustom. Indeed, “Alternatives Power to the People,” once again driven by Zia McCabe’s and the group’s willingness to experiment in realms they have never approached. This indication of experimentation is the sign that This Machine ventures in unknown territories and it pays off exponentially. “Well They’re Gone,” is one of the best five-minutes the band has ever put on record and along with the shrilly Theremin that accompanies it, giving it an open, twisting feeling that is only just as strong as its acoustic performances of the band and Taylor’s eerie vocal chops.

This Machine as it stands is not the most dependable experience as a whole, but this is not because of The Dandy Warhol’s vanity, it remains quite possibly their best work. It is far less pop heavy than its preceding works, but with this risk comes a great reward. Within the heart of these songs is vintage Dandy Warhols, yet it is buried underneath the most rough instrumental work the group has ever attempted. Some may argue that it neither reaches the height of Thirteen Tales of Urban Bohemia (2000) but it is not attempting to reach that ceiling. This Machine tries to plunge to the depths within the weight possessed by all of these songs. It still holds true that The Dandy Warhols know their origins as lyrically they know their strength is within accessible content and choruses that pull you in. A hypocritical indictment of the album, but it fits astonishingly well.

While heavy influences of their beloved psychedelic compatriots Velvet Underground are immeasurably still within the framework of The Dandy Warhols’ latest, only subtly masked beyond the new direction the band has moved into; the new ground that is broken comes with a darker, serious tone. If This Machine was not within its roots it would most likely harken to a soulless machine without any empathy of guilt, but as it stands, even in its erratic, wonky nature it is a welcome change.

Tracklisting:

  1. Sad Vacation
  2. The Autumn Carnival
  3. Enjoy Yourself
  4. Alternative Power to the People
  5. Well They’re Gone
  6. Rest Your Head
  7. 16 Tons
  8. I Am Free
  9. SETI vs The Wow! Signal
  10. Don’t Shoot She Cried
  11. Slide

Band Links:
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