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The Dandy Warhols – Odditorium or Warlords of Mars

With Odditorium the Dandy’s have made the strongest record of their career. Easily one of the best records released this year.

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Remember that song “Not If You Were The Last Junky On Earth?” Yeah, I didn’t think so. But I do. I remember the first time I saw the video on MTV when I was sleeping over my Grandma’s house; it was a “Buzz Bin” video. (Does MTV still have those?) The video stuck out like a sore thumb; for lack of a better expression. The bright feel was much different from anything the channel was playing at that time. I only saw that video about five more times, of that I believe three of those were at my Grandma’s (coincidence?) With the release of the documentary Dig!, the Dandy Warhols re-appeared on my TV screen. After watching this, I got my grubby little hands on Come DownThirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia and Welcome To The Monkey House. They were all very strong records; making me pretty bummed that I did not start listening to them earlier. But then again, this was in 1997 and I thought that the Offspring were musical messiahs. Fast forward to about a few weeks ago when I received Odditorium or Warlords of Mars in the mail, I was more then excited. And Odditorium did not disappoint in the least.

After a fun spoken-word intro from A&E host Bill Kurtis, the nearly 10 minute opening song “Love Is The New Feel Awful” starts off the record in quite an impressive fashion. The song goes back to earlier Dandy’s work; a more shoegazer feel to it. Realistically, the song is actually about 4 minutes or so, with the rest being a collage of a bunch of different instruments. The next track “Easy” reminds me a lot of the Wilco song “Spiders.” Both of these tracks are very long, and both songs fit into a groove that lasts the duration of the song without really deviating from it. And both of these songs are quite good. After the two lengthy shoegazer-esque tracks, the Dandy’s bring out the acoustic guitars for the corporate-record label bashing “All The Money or Simple Life Honey” and the, well country sounding, “The New Country.” Both songs are much more accessible than the opening tracks, especially “All The Money.” However, I can not see either of these getting any sort of radio play.

After the solid, somewhat combination of the drone and acoustic style of the opening songs, “Holding Me Up,” comes the extremely bizarre minute intermission track “Did You Make A Song With Otis?” Basically, it’s a short sing-a-long about beer, and guitars with a few dogs barking over it. It’s fun at first, then a little tiresome every time after that. After the one-minute bizarre-fest of “Did You Make A Song With Otis?” comes the real highlight of the record. The following three songs are among the best the Dandy’s have ever recorded. “Everyone Is Totally Insane” is an incredible song. The song is very reminiscent of Welcome To The Monkey House, a synthesizer-introspective song with some of the best lyrics Courtney Taylor has ever written. The Odditorium’s single “Smoke It” follows next. “Smoke It” is extremely fun; probably the closest “radio-friendly” song on the record. However, once again, I don’t really see this song taking off. “Down Like Disco” follows next with more of a straight ahead rock feel to it. Arguably has the catchiest chorus next to “Smoke It.” Concluding the record are the spacey “There Is Only This Time” and the 11-minute “A Loan Tonight.” “There Is Only This Time” is the weakest song on the record. The harmonies and instrumentation are good, but it lacks that certain feel of the other songs on Odditorium. “A Loan Tonight” features Courtney Taylor’s most interesting vocals. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not. Taylordefinitely sings the throbbing song well, it’s just not the strongest performance he has done. But the song is a very interesting listen in its own right.

Except for the outside chance that “Smoke It” goes into rotation somewhere, I doubt that this record will be a commercial success; which is really a shame because with Odditorium the Dandy’s have made the strongest record of their career. Easily one of the best records released this year.

(Capitol Records)

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The Ritualists – Painted People

The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music

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ritualists

After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.

“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.

Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.

“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.

There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.

(Out Of Line Music)

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The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk

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The Decline

It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.

Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.

From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).

Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.

(Pee Records / Thousand Islands Records / Disconnect Disconnect Records / Bearded Punk Records)

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