The Dandy Warhols: Five Essential Albums

Consider this your crash course on the Portland indie-rock band.

The Dandy Warhols (Credit: Jake Owens)

When it comes to indie longevity, the Dandy Warhols might just take the cake. The quartet is approaching their 23rd year as a band – 19 of them with the same lineup – and they released their ninth full-length album, Distortland, this spring.

Since they’re headlining the Fillmore this Saturday, Dec. 17, we thought we’d give you a quick crash course on the Portland outfit’s prolific (and occasionally polarizing) career.

Here are five essential Dandy Warhols albums that you simply must listen to — or you can just take on the whole discography yourself, if that’s what you’re into.

The Dandy Warhols play at 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Fillmore. More info here

The Indie Classic:
13 Tales from Urban Bohemia (2000)
Despite what nostalgia reissues may lead us to believe, the early aughts weren’t all that great. Luckily, the music was, and the Warhols’ third album proves it. A bizarrely paced mix of power-pop, country influences, and zippy guitar riffs, 13 Tales form Urban Bohemia opens with a noisy, psychedelic three-part odyssey and closes with a gentle lament. It’s also the album with “Bohemian Like You,” the single that put the band on the map thanks to its forward-looking rock sound and infectious hook. The single is still their best-known song, and with good reason. Thirteen years later, neither the album nor “Bohemian Like You” seem to have aged a day.

Key cuts: “Godless,” “Mohammed,” “Nietzsche,” “Bohemian Like You,” ” Solid,”  “Shakin’.”

The Weird One:
Odditorium or Warlords on Mars (2005)
The group’s sixth record doesn’t begin with a song. It begins with NPR host Bill Kurtis telling the history of the band, in which the quartet invents the synthesizer, the electric guitar, and the entire genre of rock ‘n’ roll. The Dandy Warhols’ most deliberately indecisive album follows: Frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor jumps between optimistic and existential, refusing to be pinned down to one format or feeling. The band spends the record beating the life out of the power-pop sheen that defined their early sound, although the occasional delectable, alt-rock radio-ready single slips through. All the same, the album reveals a gloomier, darker incarnation of the group, one light years away from the deliciously melodic rock hooks of their previous work.

Key cuts: “Easy,” “Holding Me Up,” “Down Like Disco.”

The Beginner’s Guide:
The Capitol Years: 1995-2007
Much of Ondi Timoner’s 2004 documentary on The Dandy Warhols and their friends-slash-rivals The Brian Jonestown Massacre focuses on Taylor-Taylor’s constant disillusionment with making music while playing by the major label rules. For all his complaining, however, there’s no real sign of that creative-corporate tension on this rollicking compilation released in 2010. It’s a greatest hits tracklist through and through, and one of the most enjoyable ones in recent memory. And, it features all the cuts you accidentally overlooked while rocking out to the oh-so-ubiquitous “Bohemian Like You.”

Key cuts: “Boys Better,” “Every Day Should Be A Holiday,” “Plan A.”

The Later Years:
This Machine (2012)
The Dandy Warhols’ eighth album is evidence of a band growing older (and, at times, weirder). Its whirlwind tracklist features one sweetly strummed lullaby, a handful of darker psych-influenced indie rock cuts, and a few hard-hitting guitar ditties meant to get the people moving like they used to. Taylor-Taylor and company are cognizant of the power of getting at least somewhat back to basics, and the end result is the sound of a band trying to grow older and wiser without growing jaded.

Key cuts: “I Am Free,” “Seti Vs. The Wow! Signal,” “16 Tons,” “Rest Your Head.”

The Christmas One:
Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night
The Dandy Warhols have been called many things over the course of their career, but Scrooge isn’t one of them. In addition to selling Christmas sweater band merch years before it was hip, the group unofficially released covers of “Little Drummer Boy” and “Silent Night” as a single in 1994. And, unlike most musicians who attempt to capture the spirit of the season, the Warhols’ take on Christmas is actually tolerable. They transform “Little Drummer Boy” into a groovy psychedelic track and elevate “Silent Night” to its most campy, tongue-in-cheek rendition ever. Consider this the ideal antidote to the endless stream of unlistenable Christmas muzak being pumped out of every mall in America.

 

View Comments