The Dandy Warhols are back with their tenth studio album, Why You So Crazy, out on January 25 on Dine Alone records. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the band’s career, a career featuring a stint on Capitol Records, nine studio albums, two compilation albums , 27 singles, a Vodophone commercial, and one damning documentary that put them on the map as one of the most inauthentic bands in alternative rock music. Still, the Dandys have proven themselves as worthy time and time again: a group that, although at times pastiche, clearly has staying power.
Described as their return in a “singularly freewheeling fashion,” the genre-spanning Why You So Crazy features some promising alternative rock, neo-psychedelia, and even classical pieces, but when the band leans towards country, it starts to fall flat. The album starts strong with “Fred and Ginger,” a short-yet-endearing traditional pop nod to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, which then launches into the droning psychedelia of “Terraform,” a solid transition reminiscent of the strong opening of their breakout album, 2000’s Thirteen Tales of Urban Bohemia.
But after that we get “Highlife,” a strange, jangly psych-country song sung by keyboardist Zia McCabe. “Highlife” isn’t terrible on its own, but after the stoner haze of “Terraform,” McCabe’s fuzzy twang is almost startling. The southern influences are much more enjoyable in the Cash-esque “Sins Are Forgiven” and the slightly repetitive “Small Town Girls,” but once you get to “Motor City Steel,” it just comes off as a joke. “Motor City Steel’s” ridiculous, though undeniably catchy, lyrics about Chevys and guys named Travis combined with singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s rich baritone show that the Dandys could have easily been an opener for Ween during the 12 Golden Country Greats era.
That being said, this album has some excellent moments that cannot be ignored. “Be Alright,” a bright, psych pop number, is a breath of fresh air after the bizarre “Highlife.” The trippy distortion of “To the Church,” the gothic piano of “Forever,” the experimental haze of “Next Thing I Know,” all were absolutely hypnotizing. Album closer “Ondine,” the first movement in a suite of difficult piano pieces from the early 1900s composed by Maurice Ravel, was astonishingly beautiful, but like the country songs, also came completely out of left field.
Though every song on this album has merit, they end up detracting from each other when played as a cohesive unit.It’s almost as if someone made a stoner rock playlist and threw in some Kenny Chesney and Tchaikovsky. Though each artist isn’t terrible in their own right, it just doesn’t go together.
With an album that goes from alternative rock to country to classical, the Dandy Warhols have proven yet again that while undeniably talented, they are largely unfocused in their musical style. They sound most true to form when they stick to their psych rock roots, and while their innovation, creativity, and sense of humor are certainly respected, Why You So Crazy begins to lose its authenticity when it starts to lean into the world of parody.