Minimalist, Yet Nuanced Distortion
The Dandy Warhols create a haphazard but transcendental atmosphere within latest album Distortland. The escapist disc, whose name combines the distorted project with the band’s hometown of Portland, takes the group’s traditional spacey tones and simplifies some elements to create a more blended yet still nuanced project. There aren’t any gimmicks this time around. You won’t hear the rooster crows and backyard barn noises of 2013’s “Country Leaver” or the rocketship console sounds of 2008’s “Mission Control.” You will hear some synth innovations, however, but all within the realm of post-80’s reason. The electric guitar distortion and heavier rock leanings have been replaced with airy melodies and pop rhythms given a cassette tape twist. There’s an alternation between heavy sadness and light feel good tracks that maintains a balance that still leans on the end of weighted down emotions and ideas.
“Search Party” begins with a catchy rhythm and light, distorted harmonies. The breakaway segment in the middle keeps things minimalistic with a few sound blips before entering the echoey tunnel that encapsulates the track. The ending escapes the transcendental spiral with some subtle folk pop claps before entering with some distortion and what seems to be DIY guitar static to officially finish things off. Starting with this track establishes the basic platform from which the rest of the album builds onto.
“Semper Fidelis” is much within the same aura, though a deeper bass surge serves as the foundation to some static beats and otherworldly sonic textures. The track title, translated as “Always Faithful” is developed into something sinister, with barely audible lyrics soft-wailing in fading phrases. “Pope Reverend Jim” then breaks the spacey tone with a repeating staccato blip that turns into a full pop-rock band jam. The title suggests an allusion to Jim Jones or a wayward father in the holy Catholic Church, depending on your perspective. The sonic and lyric combination is reminiscent of “Fiddle About” from The Who’s Tommy, where creepy Uncle Ernie makes an appearance. The lyrics in “Pope Reverend Jim” slyly repeat, “Everybody loves Old Reverend Jim, so tall and thin, he would not sin, oh no.”
“Catcher in the Rye” is next in reference to the novel by J.D. Salinger. The lyrics happily drone, “If you needed a friend, I could lend some of my time to remind you. Oh, dreamer, every little place that you go, I’ll go.” This is in reference to the main character’s mental illness from the novel, which was somewhere in the vein of borderline personality disorder.
“STYGGO” keeps the mood both melancholy and mellow, with challenging lyrics but a defeatist sound. “Ain’t it like falling when everybody’s stalling? Trying to follow your calling but your reception is mine. Everybody’s sailing on the ship that they sell ya. Higher oh, it’s all the things they don’t tell ya.” While the pop beat keeps “STYGGO” in slight but steady movement, “Give” is rhythmically stuck.
“You are Killing Me” livens things back up, while “All the Girls in London” takes on a different mindset and features high-pitched vocal cracks and an indie pop beat with some added innovative elements. This bouncy tracks goes along with the dance club and pub atmosphere, while the vocals mimic a few too many bubblies. “The Grow Up Song” ends things with a soft, simple guitar ballad that lets go with a bittersweet yet short goodbye. “High school and college became part of the past and now it’s goodnight…”