Some critics didn’t exactly love this eighth album from alternative indie band The Dandy Warhols and overall it didn’t receive quite as much praise as some of their earlier, more commercial outings.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I actually sat back and listened to the damn thing to find that it’s actually… good!
The album begins with a really cool booming bass-line which dominates its first song “Sad Vacation”. It’s a slow-burn which gets lighter and fuller as it goes on and, all in all, it ends up being a very enjoyable track. As does its follow-up, “The Autumn Carnival”, another extremely cool song that manages to be both moody and loads of fun. So far, so good.
“Enjoy Yourself” is an entertaining and energetic Iggy Pop-esque effort which is both punky and poppy. It’s one of those songs that’s so interesting in how it merges certain instruments and styles that maybe shouldn’t work together that you can’t help but listen to it all the way through just to see how it develops. The result sure doesn’t disappoint. The same could be said about “Alternative Power To The People”, an odd entry into the album which opens with a badass rhythm before throwing all sorts of weirdo sounds, electronic bleeps, bloops and distorted voices at us for ages. It’s musical cubism and it shouldn’t work, it really shouldn’t, but by some off-beat miracle, it does.
The fifth song on the album, “Well They’re Gone”, is a slower and darker track with accordions marking the beat. Singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor brings out his gloomier tones for this one and the song builds to something both creepy and beautiful at the same time. You could have easily seen Tom Waits or Lou Reed take on this one but Taylor-Taylor makes it his own nonetheless. It’s followed by “Rest Your Head”, another deep-voiced, atmospheric tune. This time, however, the vibe is more grand and nostalgic than sinister. Both very good, unique songs.
Speaking of unique, how about a Dandy Warhols blues song which opens with a jazzy saxophone? Well that’s what “16 Tons” is there for! It’s, in fact, a Merle Travis cover but, in that particular band’s hands, it comes off as much more random and altogether bonkers. It’s short and sweet and just a tiny bit genius. So after giving us some sax, we’re given some trumpets in “I Am Free”, a fun, eclectic, Magnetic Fields-style upbeat track with, indeed, a trumpet solo about halfway through. Another fun, experimental song is “Seti vs The Wow! Signal” which is all over the place but in a surprisingly good way.
The last two songs on the album are “Don’t Shoot She Cried” and “Slide”. The former is a longer track with a long, slow build-up. It’s cloudy, instrumental and experimental but it doesn’t really build up to much. It’s mostly just trippy musical ramblings suggesting perhaps a drug switch? Just sayin’: what goes up must come down. That said, the song works well as a kind of break before the album unveils its final song. Speaking of which, “Slide” ends This Machine on a mellower, sweeter note and delivers a nice, if not too memorable, melody.
Can’t believe some people called this album more “sober”.
So that’s The Dandy Warhols’ 2012 album and, you know what? I really like it.
Very quickly, it becomes apparent why not all critics took to it: it’s not that commercial. The album doesn’t go for cheap gimmicks like overly catchy choruses or songs built entirely around a single hook. Which means that it’ll be hard for Vodafone to pick a song for one of their crappy ads and the album won’t please those more uptight listeners but, in my book, that’s a good thing.
This Machine is a very solid and creative album which true Dandy Warholians should have a ball listening to. I know I did.
That’s 4 Dandy Warhols out of 5 for a cool, underrated little album I definitely recommend checking out.