Here’s another story about an album that a big label accepted and then promptly delivered to the cosmetic surgery department, only to be reincarnated years later in its original form (entitled The Dandy Warhols Are Sound). The Dandy Warhols’ tepidly received 2003 release Welcome to the Monkey House was co-produced with Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes, and then delivered to Russell Alvedo (the Roots, D’Angelo) for mixing. However, Capitol Records wasn’t pleased with the mix, so they handed it over to British pop mixer Peter Wheatley (Sugababes, etc.). Wheatley is blamed for downright sabotaging that dandy product. Lucky for history that the original pristine gem has been rescued from its fate to wither away in some corporate records dungeon? Well, let’s not exaggerate.
Monkey was to be the Dandys’ foray into electro pop. But this new recording hardly sounds like someone hacked into a Depeche Mode album. So what’s really the difference? First of all, the songs are rearranged, except that the opening track, “Welcome to the Monkey House”, is dropped, and the track “Pete International Spaceport” is welcomed into the shuffle.
There are differences between the two versions, but they’re not enormous. They’re both contagious electro-pop and feature fairly uninteresting lyrics punctuated by sing-along “ooh yeahs”. The deliciously hooked pop hit on the album, “We Used to Be Friends”, doesn’t stray much from Monkey, though if one listens closely there are more synthesizer gurgles and shots that crescendo up to the chorus. Similarly, the killer electro-dance pop track “Scientist” (or on the 2003 version, “I Am a Scientist”) is less electronically ornate than its doctored version, the drums less like a looping drum machine and the synth-laser shots somewhat stifled. In short, it’s more like Oingo Boingo than Fischerspooner.
“Rock Bottom”, with its catchy T. Rex “Get It On” synth bass, is much like the original except for a few cheesy “ooh ahs” injected into an interlude (for the record, the Are Sound version has but one “ooh ah”). “The Dandy Warhols Love Almost Everyone” is faster on the Monkey version and includes more prominent background “ooh-e-ooh” vocals. “Wonderful You” features “huh” staccato yet heavy breaths layered onto the drum downbeat. The difference is that they’re heavier on the Monkey version and blend into the drum more on Are Sound. For the most part, the tracks on Monkey are more or less dance-clubbed. This is nowhere more evident than in “The Last High”, a palpable echo of Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes”, which goes on its psychedelic fireworks trip for a good minute and a half longer than the Monkey version. (Point of information: Bowie personally invited the Dandys to support him on a European tour in 2003, the year Monkey came out.) It’s longer, but not in a dance club way.
To non-Dandys diehards, these will seem like small differences. Both albums have great, sometimes danceable pop hooks. But for Warholics, the nuances will be celebrated as re-connecting with their original artistic impulses. The addition of “Pete International Space Port” is the real telltale difference. The spacey soundscape of projectiles launching and falling, easily imaginable as a sci-fi deep space soundtrack, make the album seem much closer to Courtney’s creative process, which he has described as “I smoke pot and lie on my sofa.”