Bohemian like you
The Dandy Warhols' life among the beautiful people
Even after a bunch of listens, the Dandy Warhols' Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia still sounds like the same old blend of Velvet Underground chord progressions, glam-rock choruses and disaffected lyrics that brought the band to cult fame in the mid-'90s. Less hooky than 1997's The Dandy Warhols Come Down, Urban Bohemia is exactly what its name implies: a storied trip, a veritable tapestry of '60s outsider rock woven with new millennium ambivalence.
Compared with the spunk of Come Down's "Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth" or "Every Day Should Be a Holiday," much of Urban Bohemia comes off as a bit of a bore: "Horse Pills" is as cloying as anything by Cake; "Nietzsche" is a fuzzy, droning mess. Not until the seventh track ("Get Off") does the collection of songs finally hit its stride, reaching an eerie pinnacle in the country-influenced "The Gospel." How, then, did such a subdued record land even better reviews than its poppy predecessor?
Prettyboy singer and Dandy frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor (with newly-minted double surname) can't put his finger on all the reasons why Urban Bohemia got such high marks upon its August release, but believes his band taps into society's boredom and fascination with celebrity culture. "Our records are clearly made by people who don't give a fuck," Taylor explains. "[Celebrities] appreciate what we do, which is make music in a way that is clearly self-indulgent and shamelessly honest at the same time."
Taylor has a reputation for being honest, but not modest. While talking on a cell phone and riding around L.A. in the back of a Pathfinder on the way to meet his girlfriend, he does a good job of living up to the celebrity clichés at which he pokes fun in songs such as "Cool Scene." Giggly and hungover, he proves to be sweetly oblivious in conversation. If Taylor and his bandmates — especially guitarist Peter "Keith Rhodes" Holmstrom, whom Taylor describes as having the style of Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes and playing ability of the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards — were half as good-looking, would his band's performances draw the likes of Drew Barrymore and Alicia Silverstone or rave reviews from übermainstream publications such as USA Today?
According to Taylor, there are two kinds of beautiful people — the smart kind and the fake kind — and a bit of both show up at the Warhols' gigs. Taylor recalls one recent show, where he looked out into the audience and all he saw were faces with glasses. "We get a lot of glasses," Taylor laughs. "There are certain kinds of people we make music for," he says. "[At shows], it's important to not get the beautiful people who don't feel things."
The beautiful people who do feel must feel something for "Bohemian Like You," which could be an anthem for every pierced-nose kid who ever did time at Starbucks in the post-Cobain years. "I really love your hairdo, yeah, I'm glad you like mine, too/See we're looking pretty cool." The lyrics describe a character who waits tables and plays in a band. The song's catchy chorus — "I'm like you, yeah I'm like you" — is at once an anti-conformist rant and a convenient theme song for the Warhols, who, despite their saucy image and celeb followers, are truly nothing more than a spiffed-up slacker band from the Great Northwest.
Rarely do record company bios contain any worthwhile information, but the propaganda Capitol sent out for Urban Bohemia actually contains something that rings true, at least in a theoretical way: "Theirs is a scene both familiar and surreal," it says of the Warhols' traveling circus. "It's a kind of world within a world where everyone is interesting, good-looking and poor. It's the strange place where rockstar lifestyle meets art fag/white trash/rock 'n' roll family values."
It's precisely those values that bond the Dandy Warhols to their fans, whether the beautiful-and-feeling kind or not. "Every town seems like our hometown now," Taylor says of the band's club and theater performances. "People who are somewhat pretty and somewhat disassociated from the commercial world just come gather in a room together for two hours."
The Dandy Warhols perform at the Planet Jam Cotton Club, Sat., Nov. 18. Tickets are $10. For more information, call 404-688-1193.