Review : Dandy Warhols - The Best of the Capitol Years (1995-2007)
PopmattersThe Portland quartet known as the Dandy Warhols were born kicking and screaming in 1993, making music to, ahem, “drink to”, an alternative soundtrack for slackers, stoners, and midnight tokers which celebrated the permanent vacations of the elegantly wasted. Think Keith Richards with New Wave hair. Lead Dandy Courtney Taylor-Taylor had clearly been educated at the School of Rock. His motley crew of carefully recruited outsiders looked chic (fringes, cheekbones, hips), borrowed from the best (Stones, Velvets, Bowie, Dylan), fanned drug rumors for kicks, and actively encouraged chaos, disorder, and public nudity at gigs. The doors of perception were wedged permanently open. Just like the truly great, they had their own proper film celebrating their rise (the unmissable Dig!) and, for bonus cool, their own imagined TV theme song. The Mount Rushmore of Rock surely had space for Taylor’s snarling mug.
The Capitol Years captures their time in the fast lane, livin’ la vida loca, lounging in limos popping pills and reading Sartre. Whereas their penniless urchin contemporaries coughed “sell out” from the dungeons of indie clubs, Taylor looked to the stars: number ones, billboards, mansions, initialled bathrobes, art dealing, golf. There are a good half-a-dozen moments here when, dammit, it should have worked. It’s so close you can taste it in the grooves. The Dandys had a gift for fizzy four-minute space pop, from the mechanical bull rides of “Everyday Should Be a Holiday”, “Boys Better”, and “Bohemian Like You”, to the dreamy, twinkling Bowie-esque “Last High” and perky newbie “This Is the Tide”—all white-hot, genius pop with skyscraper melodies. Even the tracks time forgot such as “The Scientist” and “Plan A” now seem expertly fashioned, fixing the foundations for funky futurists like Hot Chip and MGMT. It was exhilarating, joyous pop that deserved to be beamed from radios, clubs, TVs, and enormodomes alike, not chained and weeping in some grimy basement bar to an audience of three devotees and a dog called Bobby.
As the millennium turned, it looked like the Dandys’ star was gonna burn as brightly in reality as it did in Taylor’s brainbox. Put your 3D glasses on now please, folks! For five good years, fate rained down successful albums, soundtrack offers (the peak was the cult gem Veronica Mars), and eight UK Top-40 hits. OK, let’s politely skip aside the fact that their biggest smash, “Bohemian Like You”, was partly indebted to a TV commercial. (Shake your novelty “sell out” maracas here.) Look! There’s LaChappelle directing their breakout video, Mark Knopfler offering guitar spanking services, and Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes tweaking knobs! Hell, they even founded their own Mecca for beatniks and freakniks (à la Warhol) dubbed “The Odditorium”. It was all happening, baby, and they were The Happening....full text
BbcIt’s in pop music’s essential nature to be fickle, so it’s a fortunate band indeed whose individual albums are treasured long after they were made: a Sticky Fingers, Sgt Pepper’s or Nevermind is a rare beast. More often the only way anyone but die-hard fans remember defunct bands is through their singles, and therefore the only truly important album most acts ever release is their greatest hits. So what will the Best of the Capitol Years, The Dandy Warhols’ likeliest stab at immortality, say to music fans of the future?
Probably that the Portlanders weren’t terribly original, and certainly that they were wildly inconsistent. But the band was – just occasionally – capable of writing glittering pop gems. The opener here, Boys Better, provides first proof: buried under its layers of grimy guitar and droning FX are the unmistakeable contours of a brilliant tune, melodically instant and rhythmically insistent. It’s soon followed by the fantastically titled Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth, a sneering, preening, smart-arse attack on drugs chic with a “heroin is so passé” chorus so addictively catchy it became a freak UK hit in 1998.
That sneer rapidly became the band’s trademark: all the best Warhols songs find frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor savaging an ex-friend or girlfriend. It’s this sneer that makes Bohemian Like You – their only smash hit – much more ambiguous and interesting than its slacker anthem reputation suggests. It’s also the same sneer that propels the glitchy, twitchy, seven-inchy genius of We Used to Be Friends, a gaudy pop song with barely concealed loathing behind its insincere smile....full text
DrownedinsoundDespite a shamelessly orchestrated effort to position their own pouting hipster credentials front-centre of the listening experience, the thing that first springs to mind upon hearing The Dandy Warhols' music will forever be - in this country, at least - aggressive mobile phone retail. Even if your first whiff of their handclap-happy oeuvre didn’t come courtesy of Vodaphone, chances are it came via the TV in one way or another: hit up the band’s Wikipedia entry, and you’ll notice an entire section dedicated to 'Uses of The Dandy Warhols' music in media.' Scroll down to it, and recoil in horror upon discovering a link to a SEPARATE DEDICATED PAGE. Amid the current glut of label-impoverished DIY darlings, this feels dirtier than humping a fistful of your own vomit.
In fairness, though, the band have actually released a reasonably impressive nine records (including a B-sides collection, an ‘alternate mix’ LP and their initially rejected, later self-released second effort The Black Album) between 1995 debut Dandys Rule, Ok? and this era-specific Best Of. With the exception of previously unreleased album closer ‘This Is The Tide’, all 15 tracks on The Capitol Years are culled from their four best-known releases to date - ...The Dandy Warhols Come Down; Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia; Welcome To The Monkey House; and Odditorium Or Warlords Of Mars. (Being pedantic, a couple of cuts are in fact taken from The Dandy Warhols Are Sound, last year’s ‘original mix’ re-release of 2003’s Welcome To The Monkey House.)
The nostalgia-drenched opening salvo of ‘Boys Better’, ‘Every Day Should Be A Holiday’ and ‘Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth’ catapults us giddily back into the midst of the disorientating late-Nineties Britpop hangover that saw us emerge blinking into the cold light of day, reeling over images of our pop icons mooching around 10 Downing Street. The only possible course of action was to drop sanctions and start letting a few overseas types back into the charts, and ‘Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth’ arrived with the vanguard: snake-hipped in vintage flares, burnished under sleepy Portland sunshine, but chugging along on the sort of mid-paced four-chord jangle that our own musical nation is built on. As such, it felt like the perfect hair-of-the-dog tonic – and, in many ways, it still does....full text
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