After 18 years together the Portland bohos known as the Dandy Warhols might be getting older, but their new album, This Machine, casts an ironic, sarcastic, arch overview of life as they see it. The new music is as hooky as ever, yet loaded with sudden turns and pleasant surprises in its somewhat stripped down format.
The Warhols' eighth studio effort shows a group not afraid to keep to its basic sound and style though comfortable to experiment with new themes and lyrics. Perhaps the album could have been titled, Dandy's Come Down. A heavy cover of Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons" features Los Lobos' Steve Berlin on baritone sax and sounding like Morphine and Tennessee Ernie playing a San Francisco dive.
A song like "Rest Your Head" links to the Warhols' earlier sounds, but This Machine is a departure as the songs have a more meditative, thoughtful feel. Tunes like "Autumn Carnival" and "Sad Vacation" are no more morose than their earlier "Last Junkie" tunes of "Neitzsche" where they sang, "I want a girl that stays dead, won't play dead." There are just more of them than before. Offsetting these downers are up-tempo psychedelic blazers, "SETI vs. the Wow! Signal" and the playful, electronic "Alternative Power to the People."
It's been said the band started because their pals "needed music to drink to," but guitarist Pete Holmstrom takes issue with that. "It's to meet other people to drink with, you know, people with similar musical tastes." Meanwhile, the Warhols aren't afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves — Lou Reed, Ride, Spiritualized, Nirvana, Neil Young. Sure, Tennessee Ernie might be a stretch, but the irony and originality works.
The Dandy's created masterpieces like "Bohemian Like You," "Boys Better" and "Horse Pills." This Machine has more thought and less thump, but it still rocks. It's leaner and not as strong as the band's early classics, but still a keeper and can pack an ironic, post-modern punch. Hell, according to singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor, they almost named it The Pastor of Muppets, Shitty Shitty Band Band or Whirled Piece. Be thankful for the little things.The band will perform at The Fillmore on May 26.