Love them or love them not, you have to appreciate the "doing what we want" ethos of the Dandy Warhols' new "Odditorium or Warlords of Mars."
Love them or love them not, you have to appreciate the "doing what we want" ethos of the Dandy Warhols' new "Odditorium or Warlords of Mars." "Odditorium" is a firm proclamation that they're not making albums for anyone but themselves. The stance is so removed from today's major label-pleasing, format-fawning, band-as-brand culture that it is refreshing in itself.
"Odditorium" is all over the map in terms of styles and consistency. The first track, "Colder Than the Coldest Winter Was Cold," is a spoken word mock history of the band and its place in the annals of music, narrated with stentorian seriousness by newsman/A&E/Biography channel host Bill Kurtis. Originally a jug band, Kurtis intones, the Warhols evolved when Zia McCabe traded in her washboard for a "syn-the-sizer," and band leader Courtney Taylor-Taylor came to the realization that: "I know it's only rock'n'roll. But I think I like it."
But of course, with their typically engaging flip-the-bird attitude, you don't really get rock'n'roll, but nine-and-a-half minutes of surging, droning synthesizers with the inspired title "Love Is the New Feel Awful." In parts, this is a parody of space-oriented prog-rock (which was itself often a self-parody). And some of the electronics experiments on "Odditorium" (the name of their home studio in Portland, Ore.) recall the tape loop/feedback template created by George Martin and the Beatles for "Revolver." But who says newer is more efficient? Three tracks here -- "Feel Awful, "A Loan Tonight" (the stupefying nearly 12-minute closer), and "Easy" (a worthwhile seven minutes and 30 seconds of Radiohead with horns, and you can dance to it) -- are the length of the entire 1966 U.S. release of the "Revolver" album.
Fortunately, Taylor-Taylor did not forget to pack some songs for this trip. Although tunes such as "Everyone Is Totally Insane" don't have the kind of insanely appealing hooks as former pop pinnacles "Bohemian Like You" and "We Used To Be Friends," there are some fine selections here.
"Smoke It" and "Down Like Disco" are smart, coherent and, best of all, concise, neo-garage rock that would sound right in context on Rhino's new, spotty "Children of Nuggets" compilation. "Easy" is a tip of the drum stick to the Happy Mondays and the Manchester rave-and-drug scene of the 1980s with which the D.W.'s share an obvious kinship. And "All the Money or the Simple Life Honey" is so charming you don't know whether Taylor-Taylor is sincere or sarcastic. It's good enough that you really don't care, which is the attitude that has given the Dandy Warhols a decent career for the last 11 years. Bold and inconsistent, "Odditorium" is a very solid, very large step sideways.