In the 2004 documentary DIG!, Portland, Oregon’s Dandy Warhols came off as cute honor-roll rockers — a smart, practical band with pleasant demeanors and flattering haircuts — slumming it with their scuzzy, detention-bound buddies in the Brian Jonestown Massacre. By the film’s end, you know whom you’d rather be a groupie for. And shamefully, it is not the better of the bands.
Sure, DIG!‘s mythmaking was reductive: the self-destructive genius (Jonestown’s Anton Newcombe) versus the less talented sellout (the Dandys’ Courtney Taylor). But it made for a good story, and if the Dandys were painted as somewhat shallow careerists, well, a listen to their back catalog pretty much confirms that idea. Odditorium or Warlords of Mars, their first disc since becoming a longer footnote, is a chance to repair their cred, and insofar as they have any, they do all right.
After a bad-joke intro, Odditorium whooshes into a pair of extended songs with heavy vocal processing and a manicured stoner vibe that boldly declares, “We are not airplay whores!” But what the Dandys do best, even if it won’t get them respect in the morning, is write hooky pop rock frosted with cheap irony, like their 2000 semi-hit “Bohemian Like You.” Here you get “Down Like Disco” (it’s not disco!), “Smoke It” (party on, dude!), and “All the Money or the Simple Life Honey” (being in a band that’s just “doin’ whatever the Man says” ain’t where it’s at!), all catchy and irritating as a cold. But then there’s “Holding Me Up,” that moment on every Dandys record that makes you wonder what might’ve been if the band embraced some of the holy-foolish sense of mission that ultimately drove the Brian Jonestown Massacre into a ditch. Not likely. As Taylor famously said of the Dandys in DIG!: “We are the most well-adjusted band in America.” Good for them.