If you like something by The Dandy Warhols, chances are you’ll like something on This Machine. On its shortest album (43 minutes), the band races through every genre they’ve tackled to date, no doubt partially due to the fact that Courtney Taylor-Taylor relinquished his hold over song writing, allowing Peter Holmström and Brent DeBoer to stir their spoons in the musical melting pot. The result: variety reigns supreme, but a theme is evidently lacking and the overall feel is disjointed.
That criticism aside, there are some really enjoyable, really well-executed tracks on This Machine. In fact, the first three on the album are pretty solid. The opener, “Sad Vacation,” is a Dandy-enough tune, a heavy distorted bass line and Taylor-Taylor’s vocals drawling over it. This leads nicely into “The Autumn Carnival,” a big highlight on This Machine. The guitar rhythm is undeniably groovy and gives the song momentum, and the sound effects (electric guitar spurts and distant vocal ‘oh,’s) are well-timed and blend nicely. “Enjoy Yourself,” has a lot of energy, a punkier-feel, and seems an appropriate transition from the more subdued “Autumn Carnival.” So, they’re off to a good start.
Then comes “Alternative Power to the People.” The song starts off alright, with punk bass and guitar — even the oddly-timed scratch sound effects aren’t too grating — but the problem is that the song doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s solely instrumental, and seems very unfinished, sort of a build up to nothing. The next few tracks demonstrate the real problem with This Machine: they are pleasant to listen to yet err on the side of mediocre. There seems to be passion lacking, so lines like “I have the music in me” (from “I Am Free”) just feel like empty sentiments. There are some good riffs and clever lyrics on This Machine, but the songs aren’t really memorable.
For the first thirty-seconds of “Don’t Shoot She Cried,” one might be tempted to peg the track as a pleasantly hypnotic tune harkening back “Sleep.” But by about two minutes and thirty seconds, the dirge loses its appeal and just becomes dissonant and boring. And the track goes on for six minutes. Thankfully, the closing track “Slide” is just as good as “Don’t Shoot” is boring. One of DeBoer’s tracks, it focuses on the instrumental over the vocals, but still has a nice balance of both. It’s the most successful track on This Machine in terms of fusing different sounds. It’s subdued, lulling and successfully hypnotic.
This Machine is definitely worth a listen, and some of the tracks might find their way onto a playlist or two — but don’t plan too many listens to it from start to finish.