#15: The Dandy Warhols – Genius (1995)
A cartoon rock band. It’s meant with a degree of affection, but there’s something Hanna-Barbera to the Dandys. Animation’s mid-seventies period, perhaps; bright, garish, flavoured with a disposable, occasionally psychedelic kitsch. The Hair Bear Bunch moulded into a West-Coast stoner rock aesthetic. A Josie and the Pussycats for the slacker generation.
I’ve a lifelong affinity for Hanna-Barbera of this time (an indication of just how old I’m becoming, I suppose); Wacky Races means more to me than pretty much any other TV show I could name. But as the seventies played-out, H-B’s output grew tamer in tone, trading nuance for syndication sales – and although it’s an awkward analogy, there’s been a similar element to the Dandys’ career trajectory, a potent strand of commercialism that’s underpinned their vogue. Possibly a bizarre statement considering the manifold tussles with Capitol Records, for whom the band were never quite commercial enough, but Dandy-In-Chief Courtney Taylor-Taylor has always had one eye upon the shifting of units. Shifting them his way, but shifting them all the same (note the number of times you’ve heard one of his tracks whoring itself in advertland; not only is ‘Bohemian Like You’ their shallowest, most cynical record, it’s also far too ubiquitous for this blog’s tastes).
All of which is a round-about way of hailing début album Dandys Rule OK as best in show. Rougher, groovier, playful, more experimental than what was to follow. Less commercial too, given the room to take a few more risks (not too many bands get away with closing a first album with a wonderful twenty-minute long psychedelic garage-rock dirge).
And then there’s today’s track. ‘Genius’ is far from perfect. The vocal part is ill-suited to Courtney’s register. The production is a little too raw to compliment the composition, whilst thematically the song is easily the most un-Dandy Dandy’s record their earlier years vouched for. And I love it. Love its pace, its timbre, its self-depreciation. There’s a charm to all this; not that the rest of the band’s catalogue lacks charm (indeed, I could happily spend hours as council for the defence – warts and all), but the texture is very different. Can I use the word “alluring” and get away with it?
The Dandy Warhols / Genius