Review Summary: Get over Thirteen Tales and listen to this.
On The Dandy Warhols' 8th studio album, This Machine
, there is everything for everyone. The band made sure each listener would find some tracks that suits one of the styles they have approached in their 18 year career. However, as a whole the album fails to truly please all the fans, since trying to cover all the ground usually leads to inconsistency . Their previous albums were all love it or hate it, but mostly following the same musical path throughout it. This is what makes This Machine
one of their most inconsistent albums, even if this finds itself on the love it side more. Over the course of 43 minutes the listener will listen to something similar to what they've put out before, but will not be able to point out one thing that ties this album together.
also marks the end of Courtney Taylor-Taylor's supreme reign over the songwriting duties, with drummer Brent DeBoer and even keyboardist Zia McCabe backing him up on a few songs. Even if all the members of the band have different side projects, whether is Taylor's krautrock outfit One Model Nation, Zia's country tinged Brush Prairie, Pete Holmstrom's alternative Pete International Airport (which is really cool) and the Brent's folky solo album The Farmer
, 95% of The Dandy Warhols' tracks were written by Taylor-Taylor, sometimes with Pete's help. While each member turns in material, Taylor's compositions still remain The Dandy Warhols' defining tracks.
starts strong with the bass heavy, sing-along opener "Sad Vacation". The down-to-earth groovy bass line is a departure from the usual mostly guitar led tracks and it sounds refreshing for The Dandys. Pete's guitar work shines on this particular track, his sound having a broken feel created by a lot of reverse reverb and delay. Slowly growing, towards the end he takes off bowing the strings (as seen in the track's video) and looping his leads having a cool twisting sound. Second track, "The Autumn Carnival" is a great collaboration between the Warhols and former Bauhaus bass player David J. Haskins, that blends a really nice, more nostalgic melody with an upbeat rhythm. The buzzing guitar leads and the lovely chorus where, again, everyone joins in make this track awesome in its simplicity. This track in particular and the sparse, mandolin-led "Well They're Gone" give a more settled, mature feel of the band.
From here on, the album struggles to find its feet, leaning towards krautrock with "Enjoy Yourself", which is an interesting track, a lot more mechanical than what is found on the 2003 effort, Welcome To The Monkey House
. Taylor-Taylor even adopts a fake German accent and a very impersonal tone, turning everything into a fun listen. "Alternative Power To The People" is a less interesting counterpart, having a punkier rhythm, getting very close to Green Day's synth heavy side project The Network. The vocals are processed and sound glitchy, making them unintelligible.
Diving further in the album, it becomes even harder to follow up, however, centerpiece "Rest Your Head" is another highlight, with lullaby-like guitars, atmospheric synths and reverbed choral vocals that merge together beautifully. Another standout is the album closer "Slide", one of DeBoer's tracks. This rather nostalgic number features less vocals and more instrumental parts where the band fuses effects soaked guitars with 80's like spacey synths creating a wall of sound that keeps still for two minutes before shutting off creating a really interesting, hypnotic ending. Again, it's something different from The Dandy Warhols, who have spent a vast majority of their career droning one rhythm with little changes, relying mostly on the catchiness of the overall result.
Still, as any Warhols album, This Machine
contains some tracks that do not belong here or are just plain lazy. Besides "Alternative Power To The People", "Don't Shoot She Cried" is an unsuccessful attempt at recreating the wonderfully hypnotic gem off Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia
, "Sleep". This dirge drones for 6 minutes, at some point McCabe and DeBoer, the composers, try to create a choir effect with their voices, but the two don't match and the whole thing just sounds dissonant.
In the end, it's nice to see The Dandy Warhols maturing a bit and also stepping out of their comfort zone after such a long time with all members submitting tracks, but this is what makes this album inconsistent. Each member has its own ideas and point of view, so even if This Machine
is refreshing at times (with Courtney Taylor-Taylor shining most again), each track goes different paths (pastiche, krautrock, blues rock - "18 Tons" is a Merle Travis cover -, neo-psychedelia) leaving the listener somewhat disoriented. Taken separately, most of the material here works even if not mentioned (I would've needed more paragraphs and even this way the review is too long), but as a whole it doesn't establish itself like the other albums have had, whether good or bad. Needless to say, everyone should give This Machine
Highlights (for the ones who won't listen to it all) - "Sad Vacation", "The Autumn Carnival", "Rest Your Head", "Slide", "Enjoy Yourself"