For any band that have been making music since the nineties, by now they are likely to struggle figuring out how to keep their longstanding fans engaged, while still being current enough to acquire new ones. At the beginning of their career, The Dandy Warhols were an experimental band that often pushed the boundaries, infusing indie-rock with highlights of psych, pop and even electronica. And now in 2016, they have released Distortaland, their ninth album to date.
While Distortaland is not by any means a bad record, it, and its predecessor This Machine sadly struggle to reach the standards their earlier work set, such as 2003s Welcome To The Monkey House. All The Girls In London is one of their most lively songs; in fact, the song is brimming with so much confidence that it almost struts right off the record. The Dandies are at their best when they coat everything in effect pedals and synthesizers, layering sounds to create a bizarre yet engagingly atmospheric sound with Semper Fidelis.
Pope Revered Jim is a quirky song that sounds just as retro as it does futuristic, a place where sludgy guitar meets a very aged synth sound. And although it sounds almost like a merging of The Buggles and The Black keys, somehow the eventual tone of the song comes off quite well. Largely acoustic and lyrically based around “do-do-do”’s, STYGGO is a pleasant example that less can still be more for the Dandies, if gotten right. Still though, even at their best many songs on this album come across as emotionally empty, or forced.
It’s a shame too, because Courtney Taylor-Taylor – the bands front man, who recorded most of the album independently in his basement – is a highly talented musician. But after over twenty years, it does feel like his inspiration has tired. Like the last album, Distortaland is lacking in the genuine authenticity that their older work displayed. There is no doubt that the record makes for a comfortable listen, just perhaps not a very challenging one.