The Dandy Warhols

Odditorium or the Warlods from Mars

(Capitol; 2005)

By David M. Goldstein | 21 September 2005

Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe can bitch all he wants about how last year’s immensely entertaining documentary DiG! was a horrendous fabrication that painted his band in an unfavorable light, but the fact remains that BJM sure as hell didn’t sell out New York area shows a year ago like they do now. Said documentary also afforded the Dandy Warhols a degree of newfound respect, at least in the greedy eyes of their record label, which actually saw fit to give Odditorium a US release date concurrent with its British one, and some semblance of a promotional push. After all, Odditorium is the first Dandy Warhols release since DiG! considerably elevated their cult hero status, and you can hardly blame Capitol for wanting to cash in on what’s sure to be many a person’s first Dandies purchase.

And yet the word on the street is that Odditorium is a hellacious mess of a record; written for no discernible purpose other than to piss off The Man while torching the Dandy Warhols’ status as the “well-adjusted” alternative to Anton Newcombe’s self-destructive tendencies. Here’s a record that even managed to earn the ever-so rare 1-star rating in Rolling Stone; a scarlet letter “A” usually reserved for such obvious targets as American Idol Christmas compilations and CKY albums.

The 65% is an honest assessment; Odditorium is hardly that bad. This isn’t to say, however, that the Dandies aren’t fun punching bags. Eternally fashionable and eternally stoned with a cooler than thou aura that the band would probably write off as irony, frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor could probably benefit from a good ass-beating, even if I heartily admit to enjoying a large portion of the man’s discography. I don’t know if the critical cognoscenti simply expected Taylor’s band to step it up a notch now that they’re movie stars or something, but Odditorium is really no better or worse than 2003’s Welcome To the Monkeyhouse, and follows the Dandies’ M.O. to a tee. You’re always guaranteed a handful of unbelievably catchy singles in addition to quite likely drug-induced garbage, and this band wouldn’t want it any other way.

Even by those lofty standards however, there’s no denying the fact that Odditorium is book ended by two of the most head-slappingly awful tracks of the Dandies’ five-album career. After a mildly-amusing spoken word intro, the hazy, trumpet-accented groove of “Love Is The New Feel Awful” is a decent chunk of auto-pilot Taylor-Taylor for about three-minutes. But the actual song length is over nine, the latter two-thirds consisting of little more than mindless studio effects, and calling to mind the inevitable “solo” portions of every Wesley Willis track where homeboy would fiddle with the sound effects on his Casiotone prior to the always climactic third verse. The eleven-minute “A Loan Tonight” is the Dandy equivalent of Pearl Jam’s “Stupid Mop”; purposely unfit for human consumption, although making for one hell of an anti-drug PSA.

But anyone who’s already on the bandwagon comes to expect this crap from Taylor-Taylor’s merry band. Just leave a few boxes unchecked when you load Odditorium on to ye old iPod and you’ll be fine. “Down Like Disco,” “All The Money or the Simple Life Honey” and “Smoke It” all follow in the footsteps of ubiquitous Dandies’ singles like “Boys Better” and “Bohemian Like You.” All are completely harmless and extremely catchy; prime mix-tape bait and sure to be owning every teen movie trailer for the next six years. None of the former are innovative in the least and could have easily cropped up on any one of the Dandies’ previous recordings, but why mess with a winning formula, dude? Who gives a shit if “Holding Me Up” utilizes the exact same chord progression as 2000’s “Sleep?” It was a good song then and it’s a good song now.

Such is the Dandy Warhols philosophy. They haven’t made a good record top to bottom since 2000’s Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia, and aren’t about to until they regain their now non-existent ear for quality control. Odditorium has at least a handful of solid tracks, and should satiate the majority of Dandies’ fans like this critic who simply know by now not to go in with the highest of expectations. Regardless, it’s a sad state of affairs when your fanbase already anticipates your screw ups. While there’s no questioning that the eventual Dandy Warhols hits compilation is going to tear the house down (provided it isn’t too much of a clichéd concession to The Man), would it kill them to try a little harder?