“Don’t put a band together with musicians who are good enough to imitate anyone well.”
I didn’t know The Dandy Warhols had a new album coming out until the Monday before its Tuesday release. Suddenly there it was; lingering in my peripheral vision, coaxing me out of a lack of cognition. And This Machine is a particular gift.
I’ve been a fan for quite a while; ever since Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth there has been a place in my ears for their workings. Always maintaining a certain pop sensibility, I’ve found them to use this to their advantage in creating complex songs hiding under the simplicity of catchy constructions.
As a result they’ve become easy to dismiss for some, but it’s nothing they’ve done.
The last couple of years have seen quite the rearrangement. They’ve taken control and allowed themselves the right to dictate what and how they release and yet they also seem to have come to terms with letting loose the reins a bit.
“I would go in and do some stuff for a few days. Other cats would stop in and hang out and if I need something from them they would [pitch in], but everyone took their time getting into the studio and working…and then a lot of alone time and then a long break, whereas it used to be we would all be in there 16 hours a day for 18 months; it was crazy. Weird emotional craziness would occur, and it was just really obsessive. This [record] was the least amount of time I’ve spent in the studio controlling the ball and the least amount I think anyone’s really spent working on it. We really tried to work out our parts more than the recording, and then it was also the only time I haven’t flown out to wherever [producer] Tchad Blake was, to sit with him during the mix. We would always sit with him. So we just left him to mix it, and then make adjustments by email. I would listen back to the mix, and saying can you make this a little less dominant in the mix or that a little more dominant or whatever, and on almost every song I went back to his original mix.”²
Courtney Taylor-Taylor has always been the face of the band and often taken charge for how everything comes together. But, with age comes beauty and it would seem that The Dandy Warhols are just beginning to come into their own.
“It’s like the band I wish somebody else was, so I could make records that I would just love. And that’s what we’ve always tried to do, but this one, by just giving up control over a lot of stuff that isn’t my parts, God, it’s just fantastic! I can’t believe it. I mean, people out there—there are some really good, really intuitive and talented artists out there, like Tchad, that you just let them do what they do, and then there’s three of them in my band as well, I mean those three people are fucking geniuses, you know? They make amazing shit happen, they’re incredible. So, yeah, I think this is definitely like –it’s definitely the beginning of a different sort of band, or we’ve just come around to the way it was in the beginning, where we just didn’t have the time in the studio back then to fuck around that long, so everyone had to have their parts together before they went in, it was a more minimalist approach, and layering 14 tracks of guitar on our first record was a rarity. We only did it maybe once or twice. We just didn’t have the time, you know?” ²
You can feel this on the record. It is a new animal.
Prior to This Machine they released a couple albums that for some verged on too experimental. There seemed a lack of narrative guiding one song to the next and the stylings would go all over the map. This never troubled me. They are fantastic workings of intensely creative individuals that seemed to be searching for something. A new sound perhaps. They threw off the typical constraints to truly go wherever the music took them.
Going back over their progression is a bit thrilling; each addition holding onto those initial minutes that introduced me to the band without simply lingering on a structure that suited them well. They’ve kept moving and trying. When you put it all in line it would seem…well, you get the idea.
Their newest album, This Machine, is the strongest they have ever been. Their work over the last few years shows as they pull from areas of musicianship that rarely comingle and certainly not so cohesively. The album is solid with a through line that carries from one song to the next. And it is without dispensing of the craft I’ve grown to love in their pop song sensibilities.
“…this one seems more like our first record…It’s very “what the band does live:” it’s Pete in one guitar, Pete’s guitar over there, my guitar over there, one part each, no doubling, triple tracking. On a couple of the records we would get into like 13, 14 tracks of guitar, a lot of stuff, 140 instruments on a song and then trying to layer and texture them all, so this one was really “rock band.”²
The album is like their first record, but with the passage of time that has suited them well. They know who they are. They know their weapons. In a time when everything is available and yet so little is digestible, the band has continued to offer small dashes of significance.
For going on twenty years the future looks bright. Listening to This Machine made me feel like a kid again getting those first glimmers of something as yet unknown. I’ve grown up with their music and am continually impressed by the effort they put into soundtracking the days of our lives.
- Interview: Dandy Warhols’ Courtney Taylor-Taylor by Adam Sweeney
- The Dandy Warhols Interview: Courtney Taylor-Taylor by Craig Bechlel