It's been said that amateurs borrow and pros steal. Very few bands prove this adage as well as professional music thieves the Dandy Warhols, who simultaneously possess one of the stupidest names in rock and an amazing knack for copping a riff and making it their own. The Dandys' albums sound like the greatest hits of '60s and '70s fringe-rock filtered through the collective consciousness and recycled into new forms. This time out, on their fourth album, Welcome to the Monkey House, they jettison the glammy guitar Sturm and drone of their previous efforts and strip mine a new era -- the '80s.
For Welcome, the Dandys apparently decided to reinvent themselves as synth-funk dance vandals, cranking the bass and keyboards way up and making the guitars disappear almost completely. To facilitate the transformation, they brought in a certified expert on the era, Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes, to produce the majority of the album. The lead single, "We Used to Be Friends," pairs singer Courtney Taylor's falsetto with a pulsing rhythm and hand claps. "The Dope (Wonderful You)" comes on like a giant throbbing phallus, pelvis-grinding beats laying the foundation for sexed-up synth squiggles and pop-locking breakdowns, a sound that is carried through the remainder of the first half of the album. The mellower second half features the return of the guitar but mixes it with ambient washes on "Insincere Because I" and "Heavenly." "You Were the Last High" rips the bass line from David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" and turns it into a party travelogue. "Hit Rock Bottom" gets a relaxed glam-stomp by famed T. Rex/Bowie producer Tony Visconti, and the whole album ends on a semipsychedelic note with "(You Come In) Burned," a mix of tribal drums and guitar squall.
The Dandy Warhols will never be accused of originality: Their particular genius lies in their ability to reproduce what they've absorbed. On Welcome, they tap a new vein, and the result is frivolous fun of the highest order.
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