Having formed in 1994, The Dandy Warhols' 25 year-long discography is a mixed bag. In fact, most of their previous albums are themselves a mixed bag and the critical reaction to each effort has been, you've guessed it, a mixed bag. With new album 'Why You So Crazy?' the Portland band certainly live up to their legacy.
The frustration with the group is that they punctuate this with flashes of greatness, moments that make fans punch the air and think, ‘This time this is it’. Unfortunately, on this new project, those moments are few and far between, rarely hitting the heights of their early ‘00s creative peak. After the album begins with the pretty, whimsical 'Fred N Ginger', the mood shifts with 'Terraform' - a grungy track led by a distorted bass riff. The first half is fine, but an over-repetitive second half isn’t as interesting as the band seems to think it is.
'Highlife' is the album’s first foray into country, which is okay but forgettable, while later attempts - 'Sins Are Forgiven', 'Small Town Girls' and 'Motor City Steel' - are pretty bad. You never know with the Warhols whether these are genuine attempts at mastering another style or just irony. The band is known for experimenting with new sounds, and in principle that should be lauded. But there is little to no coherence on 'Why You So Crazy?' - not in a way that fits the narrative arc of the album, but in a way that is simply disconcerting.
Between the country songs is 'Be Alright', a by-the-numbers indie track that’ll please their core fan-base and seems readymade to pop onto a playlist. Towards the tail end of the project things do pick up, with highlights 'To The Church' and 'Forever'. These tracks are truly atmospheric, examples of how the band is capable of successful experimentation. They are also dense, always changing, and (most importantly) they feel complete. So much of the rest of this project feels unfinished and rushed, perhaps a side effect of the band's desire to experiment.
So 'Why You So Crazy?' is a mixed bag, but the scales are tipped too far towards the underwhelming. Too much is poorly executed and feels incomplete, with an air of self-indulgence. Closer 'Ondine' exemplifies this: an impressive piano piece but - at over five minutes – one that leaves the listener checking their watch and wondering how it relates to the rest of the record. With a great deal of respect to a band that has been around for quarter of a century, this isn't their finest hour.
Words: Will Rosebury
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