July 24th, 2008 5:33 pm | by JAY HORTON Music | Posted In: Columns, Columns

Leave Courtney Alone! Roving Correspondent Jay Horton Defends the Dandys

dandy warholsFrom today's Jay Horton Cut of the Day:

"Legend," the first single from the Dandy Warhols' soon-to-be-tangibly-released sixth album (and first on their new imprint Beat The World), was apparently the most-added song for American radio play-lists this week. For modern rock, anyway; title aside, there's too much pharmaceutical arcana for the country charts. Local roots mainstay Paul Brainard does lend pedal steel, Courtney's deeeep vocal—the west coast Iggy Pop timbre generally reserved for album tracks—gallops through gun-fight skipping rhymes, but there's no roots showing. Or, more precisely, there's no hint of Americana. The effect's more Britpop wunderkinds' note-perfect piss-take or aliens soundtracking a spaghetti western without ever seeing a horse. It's the Dandy's, in other words. The band's hits aren't similar but eerily distinct: tweaked drone writ infectious through fractured chic, pop sensibilities unbound, and charisma to blot out the sun. Giddy up.

*All music industry numbers are suspect and easily debated, yes. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? What's the cover?


It's a good enough song, actually, that most friends grudgingly appreciated. Through clenched teeth. Making sure no one could hear. For a town of reflexive contrarians, Dandy-bashing's essentially assumed. Look through this site. Or The Mercury. Or The Oregonian. Or, sigh, The Rocket. Everclear could rape Obama and still garner higher approval ratings.

You'd think our grandchildren, wiki-ing the Pabst Generation and Portland's peculiar resonance, should presume the Dandy Warhols heroes. They're homegrown, after all, they formed organically well before music became the town's sole industry, and, (sorta uniquely) at their peak of influence, they stayed: helping friends' bands, supporting the arts, fostering community. Reviews of Elliot Smith's last album accused him, through the move to Los Angeles, of betraying Brooklyn.

They're also (sorta uniquely) loathed by the local hipster choir for a laundry list of vaguely envious bullshit—they're too stylish; they manage their habits without excuse; they're, somehow most damning, a singles band—that doesn't address their greatest crime against indie. The Dandy's music bleeds fun. Not playfulness. Not whimsy. Too much craft for a guilty pleasure; too little artifice to presume the band believes themselves superior to the idiom. Bohemian Like Me—and, wherever our grandchildren may roam, "you've got a great car" shall equal rain-spattered bridges and over-educated strippers just as "start spreading the news" suggests Times Square—borrowed wholly the Brown Sugar riff without pose or contextualization or regret. Heresy, to the rarefied aesthetes that staff our floating Council of Nicaea, demands excommunication. Prove one creed fallible, and who knows what to believe?

The best of the Dandy Warhols so irritates so many because the singles' allure, that tin pan alley workaday cynicism wed to a post-Velvets eroticization of drugged languor, explodes the conceit of rock as art while highlighting the artfulness of rock stardom – a preternaturally talented dilettante's condescension to form absent pretension or self-loathing; indie nation prefers rather the opposite. Listening to the Dandy Warhols, one can't help but feel, end of the day, pop music shan't bear obsessions but, also, this dreary world, a pop musician is something to be.


Photo courtesy of the band.
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