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Music

The Dandy Warhols' 'Why You So Crazy' Is a fastidious "F-you" to Music Industry Bigwigs Spewing Variations of a Repackaged Theme

Photo courtesy of Dine Alone Records

To appreciate Why You So Crazy requires curiosity and diligence. The Dandy Warhols still maintain their position as creators of formidable and gutsy art rock despite the album's pitfalls.

Why You So Crazy
The Dandy Warhols

Dine Alone

January 2019

Throughout their 25-year career, the Dandy Warhols have subverted conformity. Their recent release, Why You So Crazy, follows that trajectory accordingly. The band's tenth studio album is an unequivocal rejection of expectation and casts a defined irreverence for the music industry, and in many ways, their audience. Considering the former, Why You So Crazy is a fastidious "fuck you" to the music industry bigwigs spewing variations of a repackaged theme. The album also casts a more subtle provocation towards their audience and those who only want to hear the mega-hit "Bohemian Like You". Essentially, the Dandy Warhols adamantly define their music and identity as a rock group based-on their vision and desire to create. Why You So Crazy is indeed a reflection of their uniqueness and disregard for predefined musical categories. In doing so, they manage to be both entertaining and exhausting; likely, an intentional contradiction.

The Dandy Warhols begin the album with an aural incongruity enshrining Why You So Crazy as an act of defiance. The opening "Fred n Ginger" sounds as if it is being played off a wax-cylinder. A jaunty yet friable vibe, the overture could have been plucked off a soundtrack for a golden-era film. This leads into "Terraform", exhibiting a robotic alt-rock vibrancy eclipsing the old-time feel of "Fred n Ginger". "Terraform" is the album's only track resembling anything from their previous repertoire. Frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor's vocals are a whispered contrast to a compelling bass thereby offering the recollection. From there, things get strikingly weirder but also forgettable. "Thee Elegant Bum" and "Forever" act as placeholders and fail to add any nuance to the album.

Why You So Crazy devotes musical space to warping the Americana and country music genres with "Motor City Steel" and "Small Town Girls". "Sins Are Forgiven" is a tremendous reminder of John Lennon's own foray into country music while still a Beatle. "Highlife" infuses a trip-hop feel against a country twang while sprinkling in genre cliches. The track finds vocalist and keyboardist Zia McCabe taking lead. She reflects on living her best life despite melancholic circumstances, a marker of the country genre. She shifts into an ironic appropriation of country when she sings "but I'm gonna live the high life 'til I die, woohoo!" At this point, the track's versatility slips into tedious hipsterdom.

However, Why You So Crazy's sense of too-coolness is inconsistent as "Be Alright" provides an acute sense of emotional clarity. The lyrics are honest as Taylor-Taylor reflects on regret: "And then I stop and wonder how and why it was I lost my head and didn't make you mine / 'Til the end of time." The anguish is, however, alleviated by a focus on overwhelming beauty: "I can see in your eyes / I can see your / A thousand points of light / And it's a wonderful sight." Arguably, "a thousand points of light" is best known as the catch-phrase from George H.W. Bush's 1988 acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination. The phrase, written by Peggy Noonan, likened the privatization of volunteer organizations and nonprofits to a thousand points of light in an open and clear sky. Without question, the Dandy Warhols reclaim the term from Republican ideals and return the phrase to genuine winsomeness.

The emphasis on pulchritude is reaffirmed by "Be Alright's" single-shot 360-video featuring Mad Men actress Jessica Paré. Shot in Portland's Odditorium, Paré flits around an elegant dinner party drinking champagne. The Dandy Warhols eventually take over when the video focuses on capturing their performance. The contrast between Paré's gentility to the band's scruff is the clear redressing of "a thousand points of light". Here, the Dandy Warhols disassociate the term from staunch Republicanism elitism represented by Paré and return it to a more inclusive and collective meaning as embodied by the band.

Realizing the album will not win any popularity contests, titling it Why You So Crazy is a straightforward prediction of the vitriol garnered by the release. For this purpose, the Dandy Warhols are mocking their critics' shortage of ingenuity. Especially those who dismiss this album as an aberration, a product of mania. To appreciate Why You So Crazy requires curiosity and diligence. The Dandy Warhols still maintain their position as creators of formidable and gutsy art-rock despite the album's pitfalls.

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