After 25 five years in the music industry you are either on the way of becoming a legend – if not already one – or awkwardly trying to keep up with what popular music has become in 2019. Somehow, The Dandy Warhols manage to do both at the same time. At their turn of the millennium peak, the Portland based four-piece was selling out shows and with their tendency to experiment made themselves a name mixing up the basic indie rock scene. A quarter century later the alternative rock group’s fans are still humming along to their most successful single “Bohemian Like You” but not many are familiar with the more recent work of the Dandy Warhols.
An anniversary like this calls for a celebratory album release and sadly that, and only that is what Why You So Crazy sounds like. The band lives up to their name of experimentalism and eclectic style, but this time shoots far beyond the finish line. Tracks like “Terraform” are overloaded with electronic beats and sound effects without having any clear silver lining of melody, while “Motor City Steel” is mocking the clichés of the country genre yet without being an engaging country song itself. “Sins Are Forgiven” is according to the simplicity of the lyrics the perfect campfire song and followed by the four and a half minute eternity of the synthesizer-heavy, but dull “Next Thing I Know”.
Courtney Taylor-Taylor, who is note exactly famous for having a stadium filling voice anyway, seems to completely fade into the background on most tracks. And on tracks where he does dare to sing out loud he bellows the inglorious lyrics – seemingly forgetting about his age of 51 – about being a provincial womaniser on “Small Town Girls”. “To The Church” is a synth pop ballad with a dark electronic twist and hints to be inspired by the church from David Bowie’s “Modern Love”. Ominous whispers in the background give the track a sinister vibe while the band is tickling spacey sounds out of a synth.
The twelve-track album closes on “Odine”, the band’s rendition of Ravel’s 1908 piano ballad from “Gaspard De La Nuit”, known for its difficulty. Difficulty was also what I experienced after listening to the entire record – difficulty to recall any of the songs I had just heard. Why You So Crazy is a wild mix of different genres and shows that The Dandy Warhols are not scared of trying out new technologies, but it does not have a consecutive theme or any standout musical moments.
It serves as an example of what can happen when a band records entirely on their own. The Dandy Warhols bought The Odditorium in Portland in 2002. The purchase certainly paid off since it is a beautiful event location, which also serves the band as a recording studio, as they show in the video to the new track “Be Alright”.
This is the dream of a lot of artists – complete creative freedom. But it does not always turn out as hoped for. Without any guidance or the commercial pressure of having a label in the back, Why You So Crazy sounds like a fun jam session with friends, but not something that is ready to be put out as a full-length record.
TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Why You So Crazy is out now.