After more than twenty years of spinning records by The Dandy Warhols, we have learned two things about the Portland-based quartet – they are unpredictable and predictable. After nine studio albums and countless other releases, The Dandy Warhols have shared everything from the DIY indie-rock of the nineties to garage-rock to psychedelia to power-pop to synth-pop to shoegaze. Despite their forays into multiple genres, everything they’ve created has been predictably excellent – o.k., there are a couple of exceptions like Earth to The Dandy Warhols.
Album number ten, Distortland, is predictably The Dandy Warhols. It’s a terrific album that, unlike their previous records, sees the band tackle every single one of the genres it has covered since the early ’90s. It is, as such, an album made for The Dandy Warhols’ vast legion of fans, who likely at one point in time has been confused by the group’s chameleon approach. It has something for everyone who has followed by the band either from their early beginnings on Dandys Rule OK or even mid-career, like on their mass-appealing Welcome to the Monkey House.
More than anything, however, Distortland feels immensely like a retrospective and introspective album by a band who always seemed to be looking forward. “Semper Fidelis” dabbles in the synth aesthetics of ’70s and early ’80s new wave while “Doves” offers a dreamy and cosmic display of shoegaze. “You Are Killing Me”, the lead single from the album, echoes The Cars, specifically their hit song “Just Wanted I Needed”, and it could actually be the sequel to the iconic ’70s/’80s band’s single. “All The Girls in London” reverberates with the pulsating rock of Pulp and The Clash.
Although the quartet pay tribute to some of their influences, they also channel their youthful days of nudity-filled concerts. “Catcher In The Rye” is a groovy tune that likely would be an anthemic rocker live. Filled with references of great literary works, the song could also be the band’s own anthem, taking us on a quick journey through their two decades in music. “STYGGO” is brilliant and hypnotic, combining a delicate tribal feel within a voodoo psychedelic approach.
It is gentle, breezy psychedelia heard on “Give”, though, that personifies the back-to-the-future vibe on the album, particularly when frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor repeats, “I won’t give you away”. It might a phrase said to a loved one, but in relation to Distortland it feels like Taylor-Taylor is reassuring long-time fans and the band itself that The Dandy Warhols will be around for a while. Should this be the case, let’s hope it’s for another twenty years where the band continues to be predictably unpredictable, challenging us with new renditions of familiar sounds while making great music like they have with Distortland.
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