With their debut album, Dandys Rule OK, The Dandy Warhols helped usher in a welcomed revival of fuzz-infused, '60s throwback psychedelia. Around the same time, The Brian Jonestown Massacre released its genre-similar Methodrone to equally favorable plaudits. Their comparable sensibilities, marked by an utter disregard for the contrived, glamour-grunge poseurs left to lap up the last remaining scraps discarded by the Nirvanas and Pearl Jams of the world, led to inevitable collaborations and mutual adorations. BJM's frontman, Anton Newcombe, once cited the Dandys as partners in a "full-scale revolution," one that he claimed would have them collectively "take over the world."
There was even a movie made about them, Dig!, which charted the bands' careers and relationships over a span of some seven years, thus inextricably linking the fortunes of these outsiders. While the film garnered universal praise for its candid look at their colliding trajectories, Dig! left many seeing these manic frontmen as nothing more than drug-hazed, delusional adolescents. In the end, it seemed neither possessed the savvy or professionalism to handle their own success, let alone those of their fellow revolutionaries.
The Dandys and BJM's approach to music can sometimes take on the personality of a snobby barista. Maybe he does read Dostoyevsky and listens to NPR, but he's clearly working through the remaining flickers of the acid he dropped last night while he dismisses your choice of soy milk as passe. Is this someone you are required to take seriously? Is his opinion automatically more valid than yours because he doesn't have to shower regularly or wake up to an alarm clock? In truth, the mere act of remaining on the fringes of society shouldn't be enough to earn one the credibility to mock a reality in which he or she has never participated.
Both bands clearly feel a responsibility to thumb their noses at the musical establishment and that's OK, but doing so with such disdain and a complete disregard for writing enjoyable music leaves them to cut off their own noses to spite their faces. It's one thing to be derivative, but it's another to be derivative of oneself while simultaneously being consciously repetitive and absurdist. Some call it a feat of brilliance. After all: The ability to mock the establishment with disregard so acerbic requires one to dismiss any sense of convention, right? In the case of the Dandy Warhols and BJM, those are usually the same people who refer to Dandy's frontman, Courtney Taylor, and Newcombe as "brilliant." Well, if using the word "like" a dozen or-so times in every sentence constitutes brilliance, then like, bravo.
To that end, listening to the Dandy's and BJM's newest work evokes a feeling similar to that of being mooned by a carload of drunken teenagers. Is it worse that you were mooned or is it more disturbing that you actually looked? Either way, the joke is on you. Failing to understand their anti-establishment rationale for doing so only reinforces their opinion that you are an idiot, as far as they're concerned. Unfortunately, that pretty much leaves those who do understand looking at and appreciating a carload of bare, teenage asses. So, who's the idiot now?
In the case of Earth To The Dandy Warhols, there are scattered moments which demonstrate their ability to create lush walls of sound. These moments temporarily illuminate what the Dandys can do, but are invariably fractured by vacuous, discordant mantras that never seem to end. Perhaps one could credit the Dandys with stretching time. Never before has a four-and-a-half minute song seemed to go on, ad infinitum.
My Bloody Underground offers even less to savor. BJM go so far as to require that we listen to them tune their guitars. Is this sublime genius? No, it isn't. It's as if BJM cannot help themselves. Like the troubled child who "accidentally" lights the neighbor's house on fire, BJM have chosen to draw attention to themselves by being acerbic, abrasive and incorrigible. In spite of possessing the ability to write good music, they choose not to, thanks to a heady brew of petulance and arrogance.
Certainly, there is an excellent case to be made that the music industry earns its bounty by consistently shoveling out tripe for profit. But is the most compelling retort to that tripe its resulting excrement? If your answer is "yes," you're probably being mooned by The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre.