If ever there was an album worthy of breaking out the video of the monkey drinking its own piss again, it just well may be Earth to the Dandy Warhols. Like it’s cinematic brethren Last Action Hero, the Dandy Warhols’ sixth studio album aims to mock indie conventions but only serves to embrace their worst tendencies. The Dandy Warhols’ self-righteousness is as baffling as this album is stupid, and apparently 70 minutes couldn’t contain the entire band’s ego.
As the band’s bogus marketing campaign proved, the Dandys -- who once upon a time were a fine major-label rock band -- figure themselves one degree below Radiohead in terms in alternative-rock's Greatest Band in the World. Which is about the equivalent of saying Tito was the most successful member of the Jackson Five.
The preposterousness of Earth to the Dandy Warhols sets in by the third track, “Welcome to the Third World,” and doesn’t let up until near the end -- or, by some estimates, the end of time. After that crass satirical canon fodder we get the perpetually annoying “Wasp in Lotus” and a track called “Talk Radio,” which doesn’t seem to know there’s a time when a succession of “na's” will make a listener want to take a shotgun to a CD. In between, we get “Dreamt of Yes,” which not coincidentally features guitar fuzz that sounds like farts.
“Love Song,” whose generic name is befitting of the abstract forms the album aims to mock, is actually the one attempt at sincerity on the entire album. Courtney Taylor’s vocals sound like he actually means something as he sings about longing. Yet, since the Dandy Warhols eschew concern for anything other than themselves on the rest of the album, “Love Song” paradoxically seems like the least sincere track on the album. Far more sincere is “Mis Amigos,” which, while consisting of nothing but clichés, at least finds some level of comfort in its honesty toward the nonsense.
If you’re looking for the grand Redeeming Quality of Earth to the Dandy Warhols, look to the intermittent garage stomp of “Valerie Yum,” the only element of rock 'n’ roll on the album worth its weight in ones and zeros. Of course, you’ll have to contend with some annoying moaning and bullshit production values in between, but it’s at least encouraging to know there’s something resembling a rock band left.
Although you may question that yet again after 14 of the album’s 70 minutes are taken up by the concluding “Musee D’Nougat,” which talks about food in a sexy French accent the same way my college’s improv troupe did to make fun of how people worship all things Francophone. Are we meant to be in on the joke, or is this meant to be something actually worthwhile?
In actuality, Earth to the Dandy Warhols is as much of a joke album as Metal Machine Music, except I don’t see any rock ‘n’ roll scholars finding anything particularly smart in this slop 20 years from now.
Earth to the Dandy Warhols marks the end of the band's long run with Capitol Records. The Portland group now runs its own imprint, Beat the World Records, through World's Fair. But don't expect the change of scenery to significantly alter the band's sound. Courtney Taylor-Taylor and the rest of the Dandies still play droney yet accesible psych-pop that's fun and cheeky. Just witness song titles like "The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers AKA The Ballad of Sheriff Shorty" and "Musee D'Nougat." "Love Song" isn't another take on the Cure classic; instead, it's a raucous Dandies original featuring Mark Knopfler of the Dire Straits and Mike Campbell from Tom Petty's Heartbreakers.