Sound: The Dandy Warhols' latest release, Earth to the Dandy Warhols, is a heavily produced album featuring driving guitars, intense synthesizers, and growling vocals. The album starts strong with the noisy, danceable The World Come On, seemingly promising the listener that they are in for an exciting ride. Immediately, Earth... distinguishes itself as an eclectic album, by segueing to the extremely synth-heavy Mission Control (a tune that perhaps would sound more at home on an Electric Six album) before moving onto Welcome to the Third World, a retro, disco flavored tune that, while an entertaining track with a fantastic bass line and humorous lyrics, feels quite out of place after listening to the album in it's entirety.
After Third World, the album takes a very different turn, sticking to a darker, moodier style. The Wasp and the Lotus powers forward as guitarist Peter Holmstrom experiments with plenty of hard fuzz, feedback, and reverb layered on top of a rather catchy riff and chorus. These elements combine with a very rough, distorted vocal track from Taylor-Taylor, making this one of the best songs on the album, although it risks being too much of a good thing by lasting slightly longer than necessary. And Then I Dreamt Yes and Talk Radio both use this same heavily distorted sound but simultaneously sound like songs reminiscent of the more radio-friendly Dandys.
Following this sequence of songs, Love Song establishes itself as another one of the gems of Earth With Mike Campbell of The Heartbreakers lending his banjo skills and Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits adding a guitar track, Love Song is located at just the right point in the album to give the listener a bit of a break from the dark, heavy sound that defines it to that point. After Love Song, however, the songs begin to lose the excitement that marked earlier tracks. Perhaps the style or sound just begins to seem a bit repetitive or perhaps because the tracks tend to lighten up, they tend to have a slight air of insignificance after the heavy approach of the first half of the album.
The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers... does stand out, however, with a totally different sound from the rest of the album. As the album's accompanying press release describes, the song is a 21st century take on outlaw country that has [Taylor-Taylor] growling methodically over dusty guitar riffs. This energy and fresh approach distinguishes The Legend as one of the most captivating songs on the album. It is just unfortunate that the song is tucked in a clearly weaker section. Earth closes with a nearly 15 minute long track that seems to drone on and on and finish on a definite down note. // 7
Lyrics: I have always been a fan of Courtney Taylor-Taylor's voice -- rough and raw yet melodic and at times even soothing -- but unfortunately this sound is not taken advantage of much on Earth to the Dandy Warhols. Instead, Taylor-Taylor opts for heavily distorted, low vocals -- a sound echoed on nearly every track. While this works on several of the heavy, distorted tracks, and even the synthesizer-rich, space-age songs, it loses it's appeal after a while, sounding overused and slightly monotonous. On the upside, however, Taylor-Taylor's voice shines in key moments on the album, in particular his rumbling vocals on The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers...
Lyrically, the Dandy Warhols stay true to form with interesting and at times quite humorous lyrics. Welcome to the Third World highlights some of the most entertaining lyrics on the album, with lines like, Say, "Hey girl, you dance pretty good for an almost white girl / And mmmm mmm / Your lips, they sure do, match my wallet. The Legend of the Last... also provides some of the best lyrics, chronicling in great detail an outlaw trucker's attempt to drive away and escape the law, before shooting and killing the fictional Sheriff Shorty. Really, the only criticism I have is that in many cases, the lyrics are practically indiscernible, buried beneath heavy instrumentals and effects. // 6
Overall Impression: Earth to the Dandy Warhols is a fairly solid album complete with a variety of sounds and songs that recall early Dandy Warhols songs as well as give the listener something new. The album contains some truly fantastic songs amidst a slew of rather mundane tunes that prevent the album itself from ever achieving uniform greatness. Songs such as Wasp and the Lotus, and Talk Radio deliver pleasing heavy, guitar driven tracks while other songs like Mission Control, Love Song, and, in particular, The Legend... highlights the band's depth of talent and diversity of styles.
While some song, such as Welcome to the Third World feel out of place and interrupt the flow of the album, all in all Earth to the Dandy Warhols is a strong release and a genuine return to form for The Dandy Warhols. I can only hope that the album lives up to its billing and serves as a platform into a new era of The Dandy Warhols' career, helping drive the band forward. // 7