The Dandy Warhols “The Dandy Warhols Come Down” (1997 Capitol)
This record, much like last Friday’s Starflyer 59 album, didn’t grab me initially. I wouldn’t say that I was too young, but I would definitely say that an older version of myself wouldn’t have rejected the album initially for not being what I had expected it to be. No, I wasn’t a pre-existing Dandy’s fan, stoked as fuck on the prospect of a repeat performance of ‘95’s Dandy’s Rule, Ok? I wasn’t too cool for school. Actually their debut wasn’t even a blip on my radar, due to a super-restrictive upbringing, I had to sneak a lot of music, so my window to the world was a small one that mostly depended upon unpaid BMG and Columbia House memberships (in my day we had to commit actual fraud or physical theft to steal music. We also rode dinosaurs everywhere. It was badass).
My preconceived notions were minimal. I didn’t know about the Brian Jonestown Massacre debacle. I didn’t pick up the album because it was produced by Tony Lash (Though I totally got into Heatmiser years later). Embarrassing as it is, I lived 2 hours from Portland at the time and didn’t even know The Dandies were from Oregon. The rock that I lived under was pretty spectacular. I DID, however, have cable. Cable meant MTV (which meant music back then), which I wasn’t actually allowed to watch, but the parental gestapo wasn’t as omnipresent as the deity that I was raised on… which resulted in falling in love with “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth.”
The song was pop fucking gold. Pure syrup, made for pouring into eager ears, and a chorus that got stuck in your head for days AND made you feel rebellious, singing about heroin being “so passe.” Not to mention the irreverent camp of the video, mocking celebrity while sporting dancing hypodermic needles? The rush I felt was undeniable. It felt like breaking all the rules, and all the while, I was unknowingly falling in love with pop music.
I was sold. So Josef Manetti (who coincidentally STILL probably owes BMG some money) placed an order. It was mostly the usual punk rock stuff that I was hiding from my parents: Ramones, Rancid, Bad Religion, but also I eagerly included Dandy Warhols Come Down. The finger-tapping commenced.
When the albums arrived and I sat down with Come Down for the first time, it wasn’t love at first listen. It wasn’t hate, by any means. I dug the other pop gems on the record pretty much right away. “Boys Better”, “Minnesoter”, and “Every Day Should Be A Holiday” wound up on a bunch of mix tapes that school year. Hell. “Cool as Kim Deal” might have even been the first song I learned how to play on the guitar. However my punk rock attention span (about 3 minutes a track or 30 minutes for an album) prevented me from really getting into the record.
Fast forward about 5 years to the drunken summer after I’ve dropped out of community college. My apartment is a dive full of kids who passed out the night before. I work at a gas station, pop pills and crush 40’s in the cooler at work. Life has taken on a slightly darker, slightly more bitter realism. One night after work, the roommates and myself are drinking and watching Burr Steers’ coming of age masterpiece, Igby Goes Down (I still firmly believe Kieran to be the alpha Culkin) and “Boys Better” comes on, not in the background, but as the dominant soundtrack to a scene and I get a little reminiscent. When the movie ends, I disappear to my room to dig out my copy of Come Down.
This time the album plays altogether different. Rather than some great upbeat pop tracks, punctuated by bummers and filler, I see the album for what I still kind of think it is: a thoroughly bipolar piece. The sophomore release is like a collection of opium den slow-burners paired with perfectly crafted pop gems. Equally capable of putting your head in the clouds or the fucking gutter, The Dandies showcase the complete wealth of their moodiness without ever going too over the top, or blatantly providing the soundtrack to an advert for jeans (cough cough 13 Tales Of Urban Bohemia… and every record after).
Though it may be a simple case of discovering a record at the right time and place in my life, I can safely say that Dandy Warhols Come Down is one of those records that seriously helped shape my palate for rock and roll, and is definitely one of my favorite records of the 1990’s.
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