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. On their previous LP, This Machine
, the overall sound was stripped of the multiple layers of effects, a move that proved to be both rewarding and disappointing. Whereas it’s important to mention the fact they haven’t released the same album twice, putting together an album’s worth of songs periodically felt like a chore.
In many ways, Distortland
shares the same overall production as This Machine
, but was taped on an ‘80s cassette recorder in Pete’s basement. There’s a vintage vibe surrounding the LP, unfortunately, the lack of power is poignant. The dry sound turned this into a campy version of previous affairs. The original version of Welcome to the Monkey House
, released as The Dandy Warhols Are Sound
, might be the closest relative, bringing the psych folk and electronic influences altogether. As usual, there’s a wide array of ideas thrown around, some of them pretty cool. ‘STYGGO’ (Some Things You Got to Get Over) is the biggest achievement, as it brings to mind the aforementioned, underrated gem in their discography. The disco beat, along with the cool bass line & acoustic drums lay the foundation for Courtney’s stoned croon. This is classic Dandys style, managing to capture your attention with a few chords and making you dance. Meanwhile, cuts like ‘Doves’ or ‘Give’ bring back that pastiche that once tied them with Brian Jonestown Massacre. The organ touches, whispered vocals, along with a subdued, campfire atmosphere throws you back into the late ‘60s. Another nice track is the poppy ‘You Are Killing Me’, bridging the gap between Distortland
and its predecessor. Although the guitars sound a bit restrained, it still delivers, keeping the engine running.
Sadly, there is a string of tunes that I’m not sure what these guys meant to do with them. The first three tracks share some wavy synths that are ultimately abandoned. ‘Search Party’ is the most successful of them, being a laid back ditty with jangly guitars. The hazy vocals bring that old-school atmosphere back, complete with hand claps and percussion. ‘Semper Fidelis’ boasts an interesting new wave tone, a shade darker than the rest of the album. Even so, it falls flat due to the band’s laziness. The vocals are thrown somewhere in the background, while the structure is monotonous. Moreover, ‘The Grow Up Song’, the short album closer is ultimately a throwaway. When you have a 33-minute album, it’s disappointing to hear “interludes” like this song. They could’ve expanded it, playing the same chords with tons of effects over it and the results would've been significantly improved.
I must admit I wasn’t expecting such a short album. They have always created complete journeys, no matter how awesome or half-baked. Narrowing things down might be an experiment, yet I’d blame them for their indolence. There are a handful of potential hits on Distortland
, still they needed some structuring or at least a more powerful instrumental to be compelling. Although they have maintained that “keep it to the point” theory throughout their works, those 3-4 chords left bare bones cannot work wonders every time. Quite a shame, they could do so much better...maybe next time.