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Too Much Monkey Business

CD review: The Dandy Warhols’ Welcome to the Monkey House.

by Rod Scopint
January 24, 2004

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Too Much Monkey Business_Rod Scopint-CD review: The Dandy Warhols’ *Welcome to the Monkey House* The Dandy Warhols are one of the most interesting bands to come out in recent years. Though they blatantly borrow from many influences, the Dandys always seem to blend their own unique sound and style. Their 2000 effort, Thirteen Tales from Bohemia, is probably one of the best albums to come out in the last decade. So it is a little curious why their most recent effort, Welcome to the Monkey House, is so disappointing.

Monkey House starts off alright, with the cover parodying/combining their namesake’s two most famous album covers (Andy Warhol designed the Velvet Underground’s first album cover of a “peelable” banana and the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers zipper cover.) The title song is a short “warm-up” with studio noise and lead singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor just playing his guitar, lamenting the state of music. “When Michael Jackson dies/we’ll cover “Blackbird”/and won’t it be absurd then/when no one knows what song they just heard/unless someone on the radio tells them first.”

The band then launches into “We Used to Be Friends,” an infectious disco-flavored song with heavy synthesizers. It is a departure from the guitar-laden songs from earlier albums, but it is still 100% Dandys, with Taylor-Taylor’s voice betraying his indifferent lyrics (“a long time ago/we used to be friends/but I haven’t thought of you lately”). “We Used to Be Friends” is the standout track on this CD, and that’s part of the problem.

Taylor-Taylor doesn’t have the broadest singing range, but for most of this album he chooses to sing in a sort of breathy whisper, which is fine for two or three songs, but gets annoying through a whole album. Another problem is the Dandys rely on synthesizers much more than previous albums. Perhaps this is due to the influence of co-producer Nick Rhodes (keyboardist for Duran Duran). Whatever the reason, many of the songs are indistinguishable and seem to last longer than the listener would like.

Other than “We Used to Be Friends,” the only songs that really stick out are “I Am a Scientist,” a jab at those who hold science too dear, (“religiously I'm speaking on the science 'cause/we've gotta live on science alone”), the sarcastically named “The Dandy Warhols Love Almost Everyone,” and the Marc Bolan/T-Rex flavored “Rock Bottom.”

Ultimately the problem with Welcome to the Monkey House is the Dandy Warhols just don’t rock out. Rather they keep a mellow groove, which eventually bored this listener. The Dandy Warhols are one of few bands that seem interested in evolving, and while I did not enjoy this album as much as Thirteen Tales, I can admire them for at least trying something different. Hopefully this experiment in the hypnotic electronic yields better material in the future.

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