Each week ahead of Splendour, we’re looking at a great album by one of the artists on the bill. This week, Karen Leng delves into Dandy Warhols' Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia.
The Dandy Warhols play languidly to a near empty nightclub while a solitary man dances slowly with a hula hoop at the front of the stage. It’s the film clip for 'Godless' – a hazy track that kicks off The Dandy Warhols' inspired third album, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia.
If the mark of a great album is its ability to transcend passing years, Thirteen Tales... is a high water mark in the band’s two decades together.
Their previous album The Dandy Warhols Come Down (1997) brought us the indie classic 'Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth' which us all dancing and singing merrily, "heroin is sooo passé".
They came from Portland, Oregon, liked to dress up and sang about what they saw around them. It was a great blast of trippy technicolour guitar pop with a killer groove and damn refreshing in a grunge scene dominated by flannel.
Courtney Taylor-Taylor behaved like a rockstar before he was one. He embodied that feeling of slightly bored decadence, stoned abandonment and glamour.
Singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor behaved like a rockstar before he was one. He embodied that feeling of slightly bored decadence, stoned abandonment and glamour.
Watching him felt like looking back at old photos of The Velvet Underground in the late '60s, but that’s probably no surprise. The Dandy Warhols have always been deeply steeped in rock'n'roll history, keen to explore the breadth of their influences from the '60s to present.
It’s the distillation of those sounds that makes Thirteen Tales... such a great record. Their first album Dandys Rule OK (1995) marked an interest in shoegaze and garage sounds, transitioning to pop on ...Come Down.
But arriving at their third album, The Dandy Warhols found their musical feet, confident, free and at ease with their sound. Warm horns, thick layers of guitar, buried vocals, acoustic strums and glorious melodies. From the get go, Thirteen Tales... sits happily astride psychedelia and pop and gentle country with a laid back sense of cool.
'Mohammad' recalls the percussive groove of 'Sympathy for the Devil' and their Rolling Stones love is revisited on signature single 'Bohemian Like You'. It jangles and pops with a large dose of 'Brown Sugar'.
Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s buried vocals and lyrics throughout are intriguing. Often personal, but sounding curiously disconnected, he leaves us wondering how he really feels underneath all those guitars. But his often deadpan delivery belies a real talent for writing songs with great pop hooks.
I love the jauntiness of 'Get Off', with guest Anton Newcombe of Brain Jonestown Massacre on guitars. Supposedly neither band were happy with their portrayal in Ondi Timoner’s wonderful award winning documentary DIG! filmed around this time, but that’s another story.
The Dandy Warhols have proved to be survivors over the past 20 years. They’ve won some pretty big hearts along the way, including David Bowie’s, who invited the band to perform at his London curated Meltdown festival in 2000 and joined them onstage for a version of 'White Light White Heat'. That’s a pretty big stamp of approval.
But Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia may just be The Dandy Warhols' finest hour.