I just downloaded this album, intrigued by And Then I Dreamt of Yes, and I realized. This is it. This is the one.
See, the Dandys are an old friend. I realize I've been with them, Thirteen Tales, Come Down, recently The Dandys Are Sound (the original mix of Welcome to the Monkey House), and I've gone with all of their motions. All their weird phases, charting the distant waters of the seas of sound, and I accepted it. It was me, no matter how it changed, and I always considered it evolution. Where they've arrived now is no different. It sums up everything. It isn't just a return to form for Thirteen Tales, with more organic, psychedelic-styled songs, no. It incorporates some of that weird synth pop thing they had going on Monkey House/Are Sound, and makes a perfect mesh, weaving in these disparate directions perfectly, as if everything to this point was reaching
toward this common goal, perfection.
1."The World Come On"
2. "Mission Control"
3. "Welcome to the Third World"
4. "Wasp in the Lotus"
5. "And Then I Dreamt of Yes"
6. "Talk Radio"
7. "Love Song"
8. "Now You Love Me"
9. "Mis Amigos"
10. "The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers aka The Ballad of Sheriff Shorty"
11. "Beast of All Saints"
12. "Valerie Yum"
13. "Musee D'Nougat"
14. "Mis Amigos (Acoustic Version)"
15. "Lay Lady Lay"
I'm going to take a brief detour here, and step outside the review. I was offered a challenge. Well, no. I devised a challenge for myself, as a friendly sort of wager with misterfuffie. We were discussing the average music review, and at one point he said:
"I just really dislike album reviews, particularly those that try to dissect them as if they were art films, or compare music to stuff that is not music, like candy, weather, the girlfriend one had when you were 16, a mother's shame, etc. etc. etc. etc. but yours wasn't really horror-inducing in that respect."
I then offered to incorporate all of these ideas in a single review. Sure, by mentioning that outright, I destroy some of the magic, and indeed remove the challenge. It is now blatantly ironic. It cannot be avoided; I am a hack.
I didn't really have a girlfriend when I was sixteen. I had three or four crushes, most of whom I was friends with, and they turned out to have boyfriends or to be shyer than I was. So I wore a sign around my neck come prom time asking for dates.1 One day at lunch a little group came to my table, which included a girl I liked who incidentally had The Dandy Warhols written on her book bag in marker, along with several other indie bands I can't remember. Her friend wanted to date me, and I was game. We traded notes back and forth about depression and stuff, just enough to know we were both weird and had some common ground. The few people I let read her notes to me thought she was crazy, not knowing that my letters read the same. For our date, we both looked awesome. Since we were both antisocial, we split up and walked around a bit when we got to the dance. Our friends might have forced us to really dance a little, but the highlight to me was when we just hung outside the noise, sat against the wall and talked. A lot of times I regret not dating her longer. I really should have paid less attention to what other people thought.
But I never made that mistake with the Dandy Warhols. There are a lot of bands I like that are guilty pleasures that I couldn't just share with anyone, because maybe they're just a little too wussy or poppy, or they're sung by a girl. (Like, it's hard to sing the song to someone for illustrative purposes without getting annoying comments.) But with the Dandys, I don't care what anyone says. If you can't see they rock, then too bad for you. They are a full-blown, full-time legitimate pleasure, always influencing how I see music and the world. The metaphor might fall apart after that. I haven't seen or heard from that girl in years, so I don't know if her life continued to mirror the growth of this band, and honestly the Dandys never shared her problems. Even so, there is that universal human experience of being slightly different, finding someone who agrees with you and embodies your beliefs, and then belonging. So, booyah!
Oh, wait, the actual songs. Do we still do that part? Does the average avant garde hipster bullshit artist actually listen to the music and comment on it directly? Hang on.
Okay, I read some music blogs for a couple of minutes, and it looks like I have to do this for an individual song, or at least the album. I guess you could consider each album a cross section of that girl's life, or of my relationship with her, had we stayed in touch. Use your imagination!
The Art Film
Shit, this shouldn't be so hard. Look at these guys.2
The beginning is energetic. A bustling city, people scurrying around Manhattan, small, but not caring. Absurdist heroes. There's a small nod to the last film in our series, or rather, the last one to be considered canon. This first song is amusing, energetic, but not substantial. It doesn't care. What is it influenced by? The outsider might imagine an anti-film, or something vaguely like what Andy Warhol would do. Too bad, you were wrong. It'd be more of a coming-of-age comedy with lots of drugs and fucking. So I guess it'd be more like his real life than his movies.
If I had to choose a single film to represent this, it would be nothing. Otherwise, I think I'd combine There's A Girl In My Soup, Waking Life, Clerks, and Bring it On. Imagine those movies smashed together while you listen to anything the Dandys do, and tell me if it makes sense.
Mission Control harkens back to Welcome to the Monkey House. It's kind of a fun novelty song, cool to sing along with but not that important. Bassy vocals, cool slide in resonance.
Welcome to the Third World is the obligatory stupid, shitty song, much like Scientist or Horse Pills or Genius.3 As alluded to in the footnote, this song is probably meant to be ironic. As also mentioned, that's fucking retarded. This is why I wanted to include a worse movie than Bring It On, but I don't remember any by name. If this were an art film, then this is where it would be too pretentious, rattle off in-jokes and obscure references, etc. But it's more realistic to compare it to a big-budget commercial abortion that knows it sucks just well enough to crack jokes at its own expense, be a little self-referential, but still not worth seeing or paying for.4
Wasp in the Lotus gets back to what you expected after The World Come On. It's kind of cool, kind of boring. Take or leave. I think it'd have kind of interesting direction at this stage, but no dialogue and nothing really happening.
And Then I Dreamt of Yes is awesome. It is a key scene in one of their defining films, always featured as a representative of their style. Maybe not their most excellent, but widely recognized and iconic. Side note: I love the word "dreamt." Slept, wept, dreamt, crept, leapt, spake, lain...And Then I Dreamt of Yes, was of course, the song that made me download this album. Look at that fucking video. I wish I knew what that was referencing.
Talk Radio would fit into some kind of Bohemian indie film that's still accessible by the mainstream. It would have a large cult following. The song itself is very catchy, and the solo is bad in a brilliant way that grows on you, like the guitar is so stoned.
In Love Song, it's clear that words are meaningless. Put forth as an art film premise, that would actually be brilliant, and in fact, there is a film maker's manifesto that says almost the same.5
Now You Love Me has great vocals that I imitate all the time. It's a fun song. Art film-wise...I'm bored with this shit. Let's move on.
I have never listened to Mis Amigos all the way through, but I'm going to go with Chiclets. But not Tutti Fruiti, because I love that flavor. It would probably be cinnamon or maybe even spearmint. It's been too long since I've had Chiclets, so I can't remember which one really sucked. Probably cinnamon.
The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers is all-American, evoking the last of the cowboys, the trucker convoys, the successors to the Old West. It also makes frequent mention to amphetamines. Turns out there's something called Strawberry Quik, but that's cheating. So, I guess this is either old-fashioned cola-flavored hard candy or candy cigarettes.
Beast of All Saints is obviously a perfect fucking storm. All before it is a calm preceding its massive destruction. It is a tsunami that crosses Asia to America, sailing the seven seas. (If it wasn't clear, it'd rip through Europe before making it to the states.) When it has finished rocking you like a tsunami, you will know only euphoria, peace, tranquility. No storm will top it, and so the calm will only mean more calm.
Valerie Yum is a summer breeze. It makes you feel fine knowing that other people are cool with being crazy, taking drugs just to live in their own heads, and making classic-styled pop songs about their situation. It's sunny out, and you're sitting under an umbrella, sipping some sort of fruity cocktail, not to get drunk, but to enjoy liquid fruit paste. You might be at a beach.
A Mother's Shame
I'm not a mother. Or a father, or whatever the third choice of child-raiser is. I know nothing of this shame or how it works, but I can muse. I would guess it would either be disappointment in your spawn, or disappointment at having spawn and needing to take care of them. The latter, while dark in reality and hilarious in fiction, can hardly be applied here. How the fuck do you take care of a song? Like, keep changing it until it doesn't suck?
So, here my judgment will be on the final three tracks, which I don't feel like naming and have never truly sat through, unless I did and just forgot. They are the kids the imaginary mother is ashamed of. Not for being black sheep, but for living in her house at 50 and working at Giant, spending every paycheck on crack or meth. But like, in more of a retarded way than a rebellious slacker way. And inevitably, she will bear some of the shame herself, blame herself for smoking during those pregnancies, dropping them on their heads, letting them play with 40-year-old men in sequined jumpsuits - the usual.
Maybe I am too harsh. Maybe these songs aren't for me. But they seem like a waste of time and precious life, really.
I hope this review has given you all the information you need. Obviously, mere words alone do nothing for assessing the quality of music. It helps to also know what the singer eats for breakfast, the current phase of the moon, the price of butterscotch candy in 1849, and the curl of the burl.
1. A friend of mine had done that before, getting three or four very nice ladies after him, and he told me, "If that works better for you than it did for me, I'm going to kick your ass." My actual friend said, "If you have any self-respect you take off that fucking sign right now." When I hesitated, he became even angrier.
2. Fuck, that looks extra annoying on E2. Anyway, the first two songs are off of this album, the third is off of Come Down and the fourth is off of Thirteen Tales. So they're not in order. Also, there was another version of Good Morning on the Black Album, released independently after Thirteen Tales but recorded before Come Down, infamously scrapped because they were too high and fucked up their recordings. Even so, the Black Album version of Good Morning is one of my favorites, sung up a bit higher and breathier, with a rougher sound.
3. I'm pretty sure Genius was a single. The title was ironic, but the song wasn't any less retarded.
4. There was a recent teen movie that did that, but I can't remember what it was because I didn't see it. I read some review that said that, and I took their word for it.
5. This one. Yeah, I get it, it's more complex than that. I don't care, and don't come whining to me about it.