Music

Cooler in an Obvious Way

The Warhols Restart the Clock for Another 15

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IS ANYONE FROM PORTLAND actually successful? This town doesn't want our artists to get big, to leave us and actually have good careers. We love Gus Van Sant, but only because he screws up regularly enough to keep from really taking off. Similarly, we let the Dandy Warhols off the hook because they're only big in Europe. That's okay, because so is David Hasselhoff, and that means very little stateside.

Well, I hate to tell you, but Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia might just dropkick Courtney Taylor out of here once and for all. While previous efforts have been somewhat schizophrenic in their ping-ponging between over-the-top atmosphere and dumbass pop, The Dandy Warhols' third record brings everything together in one tight package.

I almost thought things would go wrong. When I saw the first three song titles--"Godless," "Mohammed," and "Nietzsche"--I groaned in anticipation of a pseudo-spiritual triptych. The music, however, is a psychedelic symphony that rolls along smoothly despite spanning 16 minutes. And vocals are mixed on an even keel with the instruments, throwing any need to decipher lyrics out the window.

Things only get better from there. "Country Leaver" is a drug-addicted hillbilly amble, "Solid" is breathless pop, and "Horse Pills" is both the most rockin'est moment the Dandys've had to date and Courtney's most dead-on Lou Reed impersonation (a role that suits his husky throat very well).

UK single "Get Off" has that stupid bounce that has made the best Dandy moments so damn addictive. Capitol's choice, "Bohemian Like You," is silly and catchy, but ultimately feels like this album's "Junkie," the sort of right-now novelty hit that has permanently assigned bands like Harvey (Un)Danger(ous) to used bins across the country.

"The Gospel," a Warhols-appropriated traditional number, ends the affair back at the beginning. It's brilliant in its blind cockiness (the liner notes have Courtney and Pete taking credit for writing a song we all know existed long before they were zygotes). As a finale, it both leads you to the logical conclusion of the record's mood and compels you to hit play one more time.

The Dandys have been many things in their checkered career, but on Thirteen Tales, they are a complete band, reigned in enough to make a solid piece of work and let go far enough to place it well outside a safe, homogenous center. Beware, because before long they just might rule OK in your backward cousin's backyard, and you'll have to pretend you're too cool to like them.

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