The Dandy Warhols keep their signature sound – or rather, sounds – even as they go off on their own with their latest, Earth to the Dandy Warhols. Like many big acts these days, from Radiohead (QRO album review) to The Faint (QRO album review), The Dandy Warhols recently left their label to produce their own record. But the Portland, Oregon-born band didn’t abandon their fuzzy, low-fi radio nature, laid above all sorts of styles. After heading out there on 2003’s Welcome to the Monkey House, The Dandy Warhols returned to this solar system on 2005’s Odditorium or Warlords of Mars, and Earth to the Dandy Warhols is their transmission call that they’re coming home.
The call starts strong with “The World Come On”, a high and uplifting anthem that doesn’t lose its pop among the fuzz. Unfortunately, Earth then slips to its weakest point with “Mission Control”, a dark future techno rhythm that’s kind of overdone (though still has a strong beat). But from there on out, The Dandy Warhols play it fairly well, even as they switch up styles – all the while underneath that jacket of fuzz.
There’s the disco-dance groove of “Welcome to the Third World”, which is cheesy, yes, but also fun in its wa-wa. The Dandys explore Earth’s atmosphere on the grand procession “Wasp In the Lotus”, all the way out to the carrying, distant “And Then I Dreamt of Yes”, and then back to the terrestrial airwaves of “Talk Radio”. From there they ride the alt-country love songs of the static-y A.M. dial with the wry “Love Song” and more straight up “Now You Love Me”, though the toe-tapping “Mis Amigos” could have used some more spice. However, it’s all brought back home with the dirty truck-driving honky-tonk “The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers a.k.a. The Ballad of Sheriff Shorty” as The Dandy Warhols don’t just drive down that road, they own it.
The most experimental tracks are reserved for the end of Earth, each track more so than the last. “Beast of All Saints” is an interesting, enveloping, sad expanse. “Valerie Yum” is seven-plus minutes of distorted fuzz, which somehow also manages to stick in your head (akin to strange Beck – QRO album review). And finisher “Musee D’ Nougat” goes full-bore, with nearly fifteen minutes of a softly played French cooking lesson laid over classical theme music and transmission squeaks – and actually remains fairly interesting.
The lack of a label did hinder Earth to the Dandy Warhols in one way: the record is missing that ultimate single-hook that the band has delivered before, from “Not If You Were the Last Junkie On Earth” (on 1997’s breakthrough The Dandy Warhols Come Down) to “Bohemian Like You” (from 2000’s Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia) to even Monkey House’s “We Used To Be Friends” (the theme song to TV’s Veronica Mars, and featured on The O.C. – QRO’s Best Music of The O.C.). But that’s left Earth a more complete record, with the changes carried along the airwaves.