Release Date: Apr 8, 2016
Record label: Dine Alone
True fans of Portland, OR outfit the Dandy Warhols know that the group maintain an infinite curiosity, even in the relatively under-the-radar years since their most popular hit "Bohemian Like You" hit the airwaves. But after nine studio albums and nowhere near the success of their "We Used To Be Friends" days, the Dandys are free to stay 100% true to the sound they want, and they've done just that with their tenth album, Distortland. This LP is pure Dandy Warhols, saturated with Courtney Taylor-Taylor's moody, drawled vocals, wailing guitars and introspective, oddball lyricism.
The Dandy Warhols have remained something of an anomaly throughout their 22 year existence. While the experimental shoegaze of debut Dandys Rule OK came a couple of years too late to be cited among that genre's defining records, it's stood the test of time, along with follow-up Come Down, still heralded by many as the band's finest hour. With the three 45s from that record providing a launchpad for the band in the UK and Europe, it was no surprise when album number three Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia looked to launch them into rock's big league.
Distortland is the Dandies’ ninth studio album, the name an obvious play on their hometown of Portland, Oregon. A smoggy, blue and brown photograph of the Portland skyline features on the album cover. Despite their being a staple of ol’ PDX, a team to be cheered on alongside the likes of the Trail Blazers or the Decemberists, it has never been as easy to find a through line to the soggy Northwestern heart of their music as it is in, say, the writings of Colin Meloy.
Distortland, the ninth studio LP from Portland, Oregon quartet the Dandy Warhols, continues the band's post-Odditorium maturation, taming a bit of their edge. As singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor acknowledges on "The Grow Up Song," "I've got to admit, I'm too old for this shit." With less sleaze and more reflection, the Dandies retain their wit with a wink, but aren't as sneering as on prior releases. While their most popular hits tend to veer toward the infectious pop side of the spectrum, most of their albums contain a hefty amount of trippy dreamscapes.
The last line on the new Dandy Warhols LP, Distortland, finds singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s voice, just above a whisper, singing, “I’m too old for this shit.” Even for the Dandy Warhols, notorious dispensers of irony, the last lyric of “The Grow Up Song”, which borrows Danny Glover’s repeated Lethal Weapon line, is a bit much. It is, after all, the Dandy Warhols’ eighth studio album, and their fourth in the last eight years. While most casual listeners last checked in with the Dandys on their last real hit, 2003’s “We Used to Be Friends”, the band has methodically continued to write and release music.
Review Summary: When you’re too busy partying…Sometimes I get quite frustrated when listening to The Dandy Warhols, mainly because of their inconsistency. The band proved on several occasions they can be damn catchy and fun, while also exploring their psychedelic leanings. However, just as many times laziness sets in, thus prompting them to deliver some half-assed efforts that go nowhere.
Remember when this band sang “A long time ago we used to be friends/I haven’t thought of you lately at all” over the title sequence of the US TV series Veronica Mars? It’s not quite like that between ourselves and The Dandy Warhols, but they’ve certainly been quiet recently. Distortland is their first studio album since 2012’s This Machine. It feels like a back-to-basics release; a scratchy, staccato recording that still has an underlying lushness in common with the shoegazier end of indie.
To the casual listener, there are a few misconceptions about Portland quartet The Dandy Warhols so let’s put the record straight. Firstly, they might be renowned for one single – Bohemian Like You – thanks largely to a Vodafone TV advert, but they are far from one hit wonders. They’ve knocked out a plethora of excellent singles including Every Day Should Be A Holiday, Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth, We Used To Be Friends and You Were The Last High to name but a handful.
Since their inception, the Dandy Warhols have always trafficked in in-jokes, from winking nods to/swipes at contemporaries in their songs to their very name. But “Distortland,” the band’s ninth album, sounds downright insular: fully formed, in its way, but nearly impenetrable. From the opening “Search Party” — a throb of murky guitar, piano, and the dissipated voice of Courtney Taylor-Taylor sustaining words until they fade into nothingness — tracks are covered in a wooze that the songs have a hard time crawling out of.