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'This Machine' a mixed bag with few promising tracks

By Kathleen McWilliams
On April 26, 2012

Usually when I hear that a band hails from the capitol of hip, Portland, Oregon, I get really excited. Maybe it's because back in 2010 I discovered that most of my favorite bands just happened to call Portland home, such as The Decemberists, The Shins and Blitzen Trapper, just to name a few. After my discovery I came to the conclusion that there's just something about Portland that churns out amazingly talented and original musical groups. A Portland band could do no wrong in my eyes. That said, my naiveté made me ignore the fact that the laws of physics clearly state that for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction and for every amazing band, there is an equally mediocre or even awful band to accompany it. The Dandy Warhols fit the mediocre bill perfectly.

While I'm not a fan of the band, I don't abhor them either. Formed in 1994, their lack of popularity and acclaim, but also their lack of severe criticism permanently labeled them as a one hit wonder. Their one hit, to date, "Bohemian like You" is truly a wonder when compared to the rest of the bland material on their eight other albums.

With its jaunty guitar line and nonchalant, yet lusty, vocals, it's the kind of song that inspired me to think that maybe every song would be that good. With this in mind, I had extremely high expectations for the content on their other eight albums, however, my expectations were unceremoniously dashed by their unoriginal and therefore uninteresting array of music. Following my disappointment, my expectations for their latest album, "This Machine" were on the floor and I clicked the play button knowing full well there was a chance that the album would be an eleven track torture session.

The first thing I notice about an album is the title and that was the first turn off with This Machine. It sounds like the title of an album of some angsty and perpetually petulant teenage punk band struggling with their place in society, not an album created by forty something year old veteran musicians. The title aside, the album was not nearly as horrible as I anticipated.

The Dandy Warhols actually produce a few songs with potential, but for every song that delivers there are three that just fall flat. Track "16 Tons," is a vain attempt to test the folk rock waters now dominated by the Civil Wars and the Black Keys and sounds atrocious. The vocals are grating, the background music jarring and cataclysmic and the whole product is just head ache inducing. On the other side of the spectrum are tracks, "Rest Your Head" and "Sad Carnival," which are surprisingly out of character with their relaxing and provocative nature. Then there are tracks like "I Am Free" that simply cause snorts of derision at the barely masked sentimentality and weepy nostalgia.

As if the previous few songs did not cover enough musical territory, the band, notorious for emulating a different style every few years, goes back to their aggressive alternative indie roots on tracks "Enjoy Yourself" and "Set vs. The Wow! Signal," with the thumping beat and grungy vocals.

To say that the album is eclectic is an understatement; each group of tracks has a personality of their own and none of them seem to fit together in any logical order. At the very least the album is a demonstration that, after seventeen years in the business, a band can keep its original act together without straying too far from its original course. In the case of the Dandy Warhols, this means that the album has a few golden tickets, but the remaining tracks are completely unremarkable.

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