The Dandy Warhols – Rockmaker

By Ryan G

It’s always an adventure when you dive into a band for the first time that you’ve been peripherally aware of for years but have never given a fair shot. Listening to Rockmaker is making me have some serious regrets about not going to their show at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, OH a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve mentioned on here before that I’m hearing impaired, and that for that reason other elements of the live show experience beside the sound hit me in an especially visceral way. I’m a huge fan of being able to feel the bass in my chest. The Dandy Warhols are band that would undoubtedly scratch that itch (but not at the nauseating levels some noise acts are known for). Being able to feel that vibration alongside a groove that exudes coolness is the perfect combination – one that you notice throughout the record. There are moments when the groove gives way to just plain old unsettling weirdness – such as during “Danzig with Myself.” But hey, it’s Danzig. And there’s a fun guest appearance from Frank Black.

The album truly shines when you have a powerful sound system to back it up. “Teutonic Wine” is a fun song, but as I listen in my Apple earbuds, I can’t help but think I’d enjoy this a lot more in my car. So, this record doesn’t exactly lend itself well to casual background listens. But this encompassing sound is one that will either swallow you up or shun you. I mean, can you really passively take in a song like “The Summer of Hate”? I think not. “The Cross” is another standout track. One of my favorite elements here is when the bass seems to almost growl at the listener. “Real People” is the track I’d recommend to people if they were looking for only one track from the album to proverbially kick them in the teeth.

The album gets some big-time star power in the form of Slash and Debbie Harry on “I’d Like to Help You With Your Problem” and “I Will Never Stop Loving You” respectively. Post punk and new wave have always been adjacent genres, and the new wave era of the 80s gave way to glam and hard rock with one of the late-stage hair bands Guns N Roses. One doesn’t think of post punk and Slash as necessarily going together (I’ll wait for another music critic to hop on here and call me an amateur). Anyway. The Slash-backed jam unsurprisingly has a huge chorus and some gnarly noodling. But what were you really expecting? The latter track isn’t quite a power ballad but it is a dark love song with eerie, ethereal vocals from Harry. A chill might go up your spine. It was instantly one of my favorite songs on the album.

If there’s any downside to the record – it’s that it might feel a bit one-dimensional to first time listeners (it’s me – hi). That and “Alcohol Cocainemarijuananicotine” is a mouthful. However, for those who are willing to dig a bit deeper, you’ll find Easter eggs buried in the production that will probably make you smile.

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