Spotlight On: The Dandy Warhols – Thirteen Tales of Bohemia
A review of the Portland quartet’s 2000 effort.
by Dr. Spin
February 28, 2004
One of the great things about writing a music column with reader input is that I am occasionally asked about bands that I know little about. This is a good thing, as it forces me to give new bands a try, and sometimes I’m surprised by some really good “new” music. One such case is the Dandy Warhols.
A while back, a reader asked me about the Dandy Warhols, and several other bands. I admitted I wasn’t familiar with their work, but after listening to a few tunes I concluded, “they seem a very imaginative band and I may have to invest into their music further.” The result was looking into their third album, Thirteen Tales of Bohemia.
Bohemia is a trippy, funky rock album that emphasizes a lot of what’s missing in today’s Rock. Though unapologetically borrowing form obvious influences, the Dandys create an exciting new sound and style. Lead singer and chief songwriter Courtney Taylor-Taylor employs a detached and indifferent style of singing that hides a passion for the music.
The album opens with “Godless,” which may or may not intentionally remind the listner of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” “Godless” speaks of a “soulless friend” and begins a small arc that continues into the next two songs, “Mohammed” and “Neitzche.” Each song segues into the next, and taken all together they are dreamy, weary search for meaning.
If the first three songs are some sort of existential dream, then the next songs, “Country Leaver” and “Solid,” are waking from that dream. “Leaver” has a laid-back bluesy slide guitar, and tells the tale of a person visiting a friend in Amsterdam, hoping “that you’re still likin’ who I am/I am/but if you don’t, baby/ I’ll still tell you that I understand.” It sets up the more irreverent tone of the rest of the album. “Solid” confirms the waking from a dream concept with the lyrics, “Well I must have a door in the back of my head/where I dump out all the crap so I can just feel solid again.”
The Dandys continue to shine, brining sardonic wit and satire to songs like “Horse Pills” and “Bohemian Like You.” “Horse Pills” takes on the Hollywood scene (in your itsy bitsy teeny weenie riding up your butt bikini/keepin’ on the heels cause you're saggin’ just a teeny bit”), where “Bohemian Like You,” with Rolling Stones-like opening riff, skewers the Bohemian lifestyle (“So what do you do/Oh yeah I wait tables too/No I haven't heard your band/Cause you guys are pretty new”).
Yet, the Dandys can also be introspective with their songs, such as “Cool Scene” (“Well I'm just not making your scene/and I really don't feel like I need/I really don't mean that it's cool/didn't really wanna be in high school”) and “Big Indian” (when the future is frightening/and I seem to be fighting it/well soon as it's brightening/then I, I feel fine”).
All in all, Thirteen Tales from Bohemia is a solid album; the songs vary enough in style, yet they compliment each other, and the listener doesn’t feel the need to skip around; there are no “bad” songs. For those not familiar with the Dandy Warhols, Thirteen Tales is an excellent starting place. It is a strong effort by on of the most vibrant bands to surface in a long time.
About the Author:
Dr. Spin uses this column to review albums he feels might have missed the mass audiences.
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