This Machine

The Dandy Warhols

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This Machine Review

by Heather Phares

The Dandy Warhols' searching, contemplative songs have always been a tantalizing yin to the band's brash, sarcastic yang, but it wasn't until This Machine that they devoted most of an album to their thoughtful side. Judging from how well these songs work, it was long overdue; like Earth to the Dandy Warhols, this is one of the band's most consistent sets yet. While This Machine isn't as ballad-heavy or acoustic as its still-life cover -- which nods to Woody Guthrie's famous "This Machine Kills Fascists"-emblazoned guitar -- suggests, it certainly is ruminative. Failure and loss loom in nearly every corner, even (perhaps especially) on the most upbeat moments. "I used to be a little snot," Courtney Taylor snarls on the Iggy Pop-esque "Enjoy Yourself," which is extra-snide even by the Dandies' standards, but the target of all its vitriol and past glories is in the mirror. "SETI vs. the Wow! Signal" catalogs humanity's shortcomings over driving rock, and the unexpected and unexpectedly successful cover of Tennessee Ernie Ford's "16 Tons," complete with mordant saxophone and jingling coins, adds another dimension to the sadder-but-wiser feel here. When the band does dive deep into melancholia, the results are even more powerful, particularly on "The Autumn Carnival"'s gorgeous whispers, "Well They're Gone"'s ghostly dub (which restates the case that Taylor may very well be America's answer to Damon Albarn), and the closing lament "Slide." However, the band also makes room for redemption and acceptance, most strikingly on "I Am Free," where Taylor sings, "And when they say payback's a bitch/It's a bitch you've got to make your peace with." It's the closest the band has come yet to something genuinely uplifting and irony-free -- no small feat for these tongue-in-cheek provocateurs, but This Machine suggests that the Dandy Warhols are actually improving with age, which is an even bigger accomplishment.

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