This is a classic. This was the first Dandys album I heard, same as it is for many. In an interview, Zia McCabe recommended that newcomers start with Thirteen Tales. Even they know it's their best album.1
4. "Country Leaver"
6. "Horse Pills"
7. "Get Off"
9. "Cool Scene"
10. "Bohemian Like You"
12. "Big Indian"
13. "The Gospel"
"Sleep" is the best song on the album. I can say that with absolute confidence. If Sleep is the first Dandys song that someone hears, well, that'll be a double-edged sword. They will totally infatuated, but they won't find anything to top it. Anywhere, period. I'd say it's one of the best things ever put to record, and it's their Pyramid Song2.
I would sleep forever
But it's of hurt I dream
If I could sleep forever
I would forget about everything
These words come out in a sublime breathiness, and only when you try to match it does it ever seem inimitable.
The composition builds as the song progresses, from a drum machine and the lead synth (or guitar?) to a layered chorus at the end, violin-tones, more drums, spacey sound effects, etc. Having just written that, I realize it doesn't tell you shit. This song is genius and perfect, 'nuff said. There are just so many things going on that still manage to meld into a cohesive whole. (Hear it in one of my favorite flash animations. Sound quality took a small hit, but I think the imagery helps.)
My second favorite on here is probably "Mohammed". It's in a similar spacey, mostly instrumental tradition with Sleep and "The Whipping Tree" from Come Down. "Nietzsche" is in this vein as well, though it is a bit more upbeat. All of these have a similar vocal that I really love. Godless is an excellent opener, but a single. Still great, and almost fitting in with these others.
It took me years to give Country Leaver a chance. When I did, I was surprised at the acoustic guitar rhythms. I didn't honestly think they were capable of that, Courtney Taylor-Taylor or Pete Holmstrom, whoever actually plays this. It's not as emotionally involving as Sleep or Mohammed, but more of a silly intermission.
Solid is even sillier. Depending on what you're listening through, it can be a fun song or incredibly annoying, due to its backing track.
I got a beautiful new Asian girlfriend
Who hangs around for days in my bed
You can't seriously believe I'm thinking about you man
'Cause I must have a door in the back of my
Back of my head
Horse Pills has one of the heaviest sounding rhythms this band ever produced. It's basically about a shallow party chick, and also drugs. Comparatively unremarkable, but cool to know for the completionist.
Get Off is another single, and a departure back to sort of seriousness from the last couple of tracks. Sort of. This is a classic and one of the songs you're most likely to have heard.
I can't say anything about Cool Scene because it sucks and I've never heard the whole thing. Fun fact: A Google search for cool scene brings up pictures of scenesters mostly looking kind of surprised and blissed out. I want to be mad, but they're adorable. Every single one has perfect hair, and in all the colors of the rainbow.
Bohemian Like You is one of their most famous singles, partly because the video featured full frontal male nudity. It's also a great tune, but mainstreamier. It really hits home with what I think a lot of people wanted out of courting in that generation, kind of a cool zeitgeist. You can build a life philosophy around it, is what I'm saying.
Shakin' is kind of neat but it gets old.
Big Indian is another song I took way too long to give a try. It is really quite awesome. The music is pretty simple and chill, but the vocals, as always are awesome. This seems like a song that could come from a lot of bands, and I can't seem to associate it with the Dandys, but that's a stupid thing to say and think, given their chameleonesque nature. I dug the song, anyway.
The Gospel is sort of boring. Yet again, I'm amazed that they could make this tune, but it drags on way too long. If you like any kind of gospel or stained glass bluegrass, I dunno, it might be for you.
IN CONCLUSION, get this album if you don't have it. It's very well-rounded and every song could be considered solid. It lends well to listening all the way through, since most tracks are set up to bleed right into each other, and if this is all fresh to you, you might want to do just that. Thirteen Tales probably ventures in more directions than any of their other albums, and it never really fails.
1. Actually, I think Are Sound might be a little more solid, in that there is only one song I tend to skip when I play it, but this one is way more seminal. Also, I just reviewed Earth to the Dandys, which is so awesome and really shows that they've continued to mature. The reason I say this, then, is that Zia McCabe says its the album to start with if you're just getting into them.
2. Pyramid Song is the best thing Radiohead put to record.