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The Capitol Years: A Reasonable, Toe-tapping Dandy Warhols Survey

Posted by December 3rd, 2010 No Comments »

The Dandy Warhols
The Capitol Years 1995-2007
By Glenn Pittaway 

I’ve always struggled with the concept of the compilation album. The fans already have the tracks anyway, though of course, for the completist, there is sometimes the lure of a “rare B-side”, or “previously unreleased gem”.

Now, in the era of online music services, the relevance of the compilation is more dubious, since even the casually interested can download the songs they care about, and not have to wade through the dross that constitutes the average album, just to get to the “good song I heard on that reality show”. The Dandy Warhols’ The Capitol Years is that noblest of creations, a compilation released by a former record company.

Ondi Timoner’s classic documentary DIG! (2004) made me pay deeper attention to the Dandies. Deviating from the traditional “rocumentary” arc, DIG! was the story of not just The Dandies but also The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and their initially parallel careers. Ostensibly here were two similar bands: both with archly ironic names, both led by good looking, charismatic songwriters, both with something of a backward looking take on pop.

However, as the story unfolded, it became clear that we were looking at something deeper, and darker. In essence, the oppositions of rock, pop (life?) were starkly exposed – near genius vs. ability, ambition vs. the ability to execute, if you like inspiration vs. perspiration.

In what were characteristic turns of luck, we saw one band engage in onstage riots at a high profile industry showcase, and a pointless drug bust, while the other gained large scale success in Europe via the licensing of a song for a cell phone carrier, and laughed off a perfunctory on the spot fine for possession of some hash on their tour bus.

So, back to The Capitol Years. Apart from some remixes, and a previously unreleased track (“This Is The Tide”, a shoe-gazey, and overlong Zia McCabe composition that’s hardly a gem) we have a reasonable, toe-tapping, survey of the Dandy Warhols’ five Capitol albums – enjoyable enough, derivative pop that never quite descends into pastiche.

The Dandy Warhols play the Showbox at the Market Friday, December 3 with Blue Giant.

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