The Dandy Warhols

Posted: May 17th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Modest Proposals

“Can’t someone just make them stop?” beseeches Courtney Taylor-Taylor from the stage. “This is Detroit—isn’t it legal to just shoot them?”

The Dandy Warhols are under attack . . . from Mahogany Rush. This is Detroit. Somehow these things happen. The present is always challenged by the spirit of 1976. The Portland psych-pop combo is playing the Shelter, a downtown basement residing beneath Saint Andrew’s Hall, a larger venue that tonight hosts Mahogany Rush. You may remember the hard-rockin’ trio from such classics as “Dragonfly,” “Hey, Little Lover,” and “Requiem For A Sinner.” (No? Me neither.) In the Me Decade they were eternally third on the bill at seemingly any given stadium-rock show. Tonight they’re finally playing above another band—literally—and their amplified kick-drum is thumping through the floor between pauses in the Warhols’ set.

“Wait. They’re hippies, right?” Taylor-Taylor thinks he’s found a solution. “Why doesn’t someone go up there and give ‘em some acid? Then they’ll just sit on the floor and talk about themselves. There can’t be more than 14 of them onstage. It wouldn’t cost that much . . . ”

The capacity crowd laughs and applauds. The soundman shoves up the faders on the Shelter’s PA. Taylor-Taylor leads the band—keyboardist Zia McCabe, guitarist Pete Holmstrom, and drummer Brent DeBoer—into the Ennio Morricone-tinged “Get Off,” from their new album, Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia. It’s no “Dragonfly,” but the audience loves it all the same. A victory, yes, but the celebration will have to wait. For some bands, slaying ’70s dinosaurs is hell; for The Dandy Warhols, it’s practice. If they want to be heard above the din of hard rock’s currently reigning bands, they’ll have to turn it up a whole lot louder.

Backstage, before the show, Taylor-Taylor runs a hand through his black thatched hairdo and yawns. He’s only a week into the band’s U.S. tour, and he’s already enervated. And who wouldn’t be? This isn’t just touring, according to the singer—this is revolution. (Albeit revolution with some great smoke at the after-show party.) The Dandy Warhols have perpetually been the odd band out, but they took three years to promote and then follow-up their second album, . . . The Dandy Warhols Come Down, with its quasi-hit, “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth.” Now they’ve reemerged into a world in which a band seemingly needs either a choreographer or a missing Y chromosome to get a shot at the charts. According to Taylor-Taylor (the hyphenated-name thing, incidentally, is an inside joke that went way too far), the industry’s eyes are upon radio’s response to his group’s Stones-y new single, “Bohemian Like You.” Listener reaction will determine whether the time is right for a coup of the Testosterock Citadel.

“We run around the world, and we preach revolution,” starts the singer, becoming increasingly animated. “And someday we’re gonna be the ones in power, and they’re gonna be the ones against the wall with blindfolds. And all the loudmouth, jerk-off, date-raping, fuckin’ dickheads are gonna have to pretend they’re elegant and cool and get good haircuts—or they¹re not gonna have any fuckin’ friends. That’s our fuckin’ revolution.”

He stops to laugh at his modest proposal before addressing the reality of the situation. “The problem is having 12-year-olds with financial clout. They’re a market with major buying power, and we’re basically selling records to people who pick up the $2 used copy of Dostoevsky. So, who knows if it’s gonna happen, but . . .”

He shrugs. And how does Taylor-Taylor contrast The Dandy Warhols’ enlightened fans with the show-us-your-tits crowd?
“All the guys in our scene have to get raped in order to get laid, because all of us would feel really vulgar being sexually forward with a woman. No matter how much she smiles at you and talks nice to you and looks you in the eye and laughs at your jokes—to make even a forward suggestion, you’d feel totally fucking disgusting.

“You can feel as it’s about to come out of your mouth that your whole ideology is about to be reevaluated and utterly reduced to ground zero by this woman. And it probably should be. I think it’d be a much better world if the women did all the deciding as far as who they want. I mean, they pretty much do, anyway. Don’t they?”

And in an ideal world, according to Taylor-Taylor, women would want unique, rather than beautiful, people. “Well, I look at [ex-Verve frontman] Richard Ashcroft, for instance, and I go, ‘Man, that guy is cool-looking.’ He’s just odd-looking. I only get to be a scumbag weirdo because if I have any semblance of a normal haircut, I look like I model for a living, and then no one takes you seriously at all. No one thinks you feel anything; no one think’s you think anything. You just get written off.”

Shallowness is a perception the Warhols have battled before. With a look so rocktastic they’re ripe for a Saturday morning TV show (they’ve already been drawn into an episode of Mike Allred’s Red Rocket 7 comic) and an early penchant for clothing-optional gigs, the Warhols have occasionally found their music overshadowed by their image. Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia should change that. With their most consistent album to date, the group finally strikes the perfect balance between image and substance. (They’ve even gotten the nod of approval from their idol, David Bowie, whom Taylor-Taylor has affectionately taken to calling “my stalker,” since the Starman recently caught a few gigs.)

Recorded in a former gay men’s gym in Portland over the span of a year and a half, the album came together between and during parties. “Whoever was there was more than welcome to play, if they brought an instrument,” according to Taylor-Taylor. And that vibe translates on disc, from the libidinous groove of “Horse Pills” to the come-down drone of “Nietzsche.” The lyrics, too, are all slice-of-life, as if Taylor-Taylor were commenting on the action at each party. It’s a huge affirmation that, despite America’s creeping homogenization of, well, everything, urban bohemia still thrives.

“From East Berlin to Sydney to St. Louis to Albuquerque, that’s about all we see and all we wanna see,” says Taylor-Taylor. “It’s the people we meet. We all understand each other’s reference points, whether it’s film or rock. Yet if you were to ask anybody who owns a Britney Spears record, they would not know who the fuck [director] Ken Russell is. It wouldn’t matter to them. They might not even know who Spock is.”

Does that concern him at all?

“I don’t give a fuck about them. Those people have always existed. I mean, [back in the '60s] you’d be interviewing [The Doors'] Ray Manzarek, and you’d be saying, if they had [such and such] record, they’d have no idea what The Firesign Theatre was, or whatever . . .”

Still, Taylor-Taylor hasn’t given up on the idea of a crossover, a revolution: “I’m under the assumption that if I feel something strongly enough that I have to write a song to make myself get over it, then it’s probably a fairly universal set of emotions,” he offers. And if the music doesn’t do it, there’s always the image. Whether the world will ever see jocks with thatched haircuts acting elegantly cool—well, it’s a funny thought, at least. For now, it’s enough that The Dandy Warhols are in a different city every night, challenging the status quo.

“You know, Kid Rock is not sexy,” he offers before excusing himself to take a catnap prior to doing battle with Mahogany Rush in Bob Ritchie’s hometown. “He gets his cock sucked all the time, but he is not sexy. We are the last truly sexy rock band.”

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