splendid > reviews > 9/16/2003
The Dandy Warhols
The Dandy Warhols
Welcome to the Monkey House

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "I Am a Scientist"

Buy me now
They're the drug gibbons who live downstairs and make a royal ruckus come the witching hour, the folks you dropped your first E with, the dirt merchants you wouldn't trust with a stranger's car and the least upstanding citizens you know. That might not amount to much more than a criminal record and a scuzzy basement apartment in the real world, but in the realm of rock 'n' roll, a hot sheet like that is nearly enough to make The Dandy Warhols the gods of all creation.

Smeared with glammy synthesizers and hollow vocal slurring, Welcome to the Monkey House is an unabashed celebration of the unmitigated disposability of modern day life -- the hedonistic here and now by way of the skinny-tie-wearing there and then. The band's rag-tag Bohemian universe has been turned on its ear; they've swapped gnarly guitars and psychedelic swirls for daft haircuts (see also: Courtney's wonky mohawk) and vintage analog keyboards yanked straight out of "Hungry Like the Wolf". In an attempt to be proper powder-fiends they've gone straight to the source, enlisting once and future Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes and former T. Rex/Marc Bolan collaborator Tony Visconti to handle Monkey House's production duties.

The Dandys have ditched their six-foot bongs in favor of fuscia coke mirrors, and sound all the more efficacious for it; "We Used to be Friends" is mindlessly enthralling new-wave pop shot through with Courtney Taylor-Taylor's sardonic wit and a buzzing undercurrent of punk aggression, "The Dope" is exactly that and nothing but, and "Plan A" is what Radiohead might sound like if they weren't in such dour straights all the time. Moreover, for the first time since Dandys Rule OK?, the band have crawled out of their opium den long enough to let the rays of the sun seep in. "I Am a Scientist" (no, not a GBV cover) is dance music for the shoegazer set, while slow-burners "Insincere Because I" and "You Were the Last High" are the point at which the group's infamous Velvets-fixations get a spangly post-millennial overhaul.

As with any Dandys hit, the highs are nearly euphoric, while the lows are completely scudbottom; "The Dandy Warhols Love Almost Everyone" is simply too pert for its own synth-addled good, Taylor-Taylor never quite dislodging tongue from cheek, while the far-too-literal "Hit Rock Bottom" is handcuffed by Visconti's ultra-slick production and the fact that they actually sound like they're in the midst of a brutal trip.

What's most fascinating about Welcome to the Monkey House is that, in the midst of copious drug usage, heavy drinking and god knows what else, the Dandy Warhols have emerged with an album so cleverly coherent that it simply couldn't have come from anywhere else. The verdict's still out as to whether that's a testament to their garrulous pop smarts or the pharmaceutical skills of their favorite dealer.



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