The Dandy Warhols

Welcome to the Monkey House

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Over the course of their career, the Dandy Warhols alternated between slick, smart, slightly smirky pop singles like "Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth" and "Bohemian Like You" and the ambitious yet somehow empty-sounding tracks that made up the rest of their albums. With their fifth album, Welcome to the Monkey House, the band capitalizes on their pop sensibilities and even manages to turn their prior weaknesses into strengths, resulting in a collection of gloriously blank, cleverly stupid neo-new wave songs. It's true that, once again, the Dandy Warhols look to other people's music for direction, but this time around, the new wave and synth-pop revivals that inform the album sound so natural that it's hard to imagine the band in any other incarnation. Welcome to the Monkey House's glossy mix of synths, guitars, and drum machines -- aided and abetted by co-producer Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran -- are the perfect complement to Courtney Taylor's knowing, flip outlook. The album gets off to a strong start with sharply crafted songs like "We Used to Be Friends" -- which feels a little bit like a follow-up to Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia's "Bohemian Like You" -- and "I Am Over It," a slice of electronic pop that's delivered in appropriately blasé, mechanical fashion. Not surprisingly, most of the album's best songs revolve around emptiness, drugs, and narcissism, such as "The Dope," an electro-inspired number that could give Fischerspooner a run for its money when it comes to jittery, vocodered trendiness. "I Am a Scientist" is the album's trashy zenith; a hybrid of sleazy beats, breathy samples and a rather nihilistic celebration of science's lack of emotion (not to mention its contributions to recreational chemistry). "You Were the Last High," however, confuses drugs and girls in an unusually bittersweet way. Some shades of paranoia and existential crisis creep into the album from time to time, more playfully on "Plan A" and more seriously on the brooding "Insincere Because I," giving a what-goes-up-must-come-down balance to party-hard odes such as "The Dandy Warhols Love Almost Everyone" and "Hit Rock Bottom." Like any party, things start to fall flat toward the end of Welcome to the Monkey House; "Heavenly," "I Am Sound" -- an "Ashes to Ashes" homage -- and "You Come in Burned" provide a sluggish comedown to the rest of the album's go-go pace, although they're not as distinctive as what came before them. Ultimately, in general and on this album, the Dandy Warhols work best when they don't try to inject weighty matters like meaning and substance into their jaded pop confectionery. Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia might still be the band's most accomplished album, but by embracing their emptiness and stylishness on Welcome to the Monkey House, they've crafted an album that is no less enjoyable because of its disposability.

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