Few bands surf the cusp of magnificence and mediocrity with the insouciance of the Dandy Warhols. The Oregon rockers are as capable of wearying self-indulgence as they are of sharp-witted inspiration: For every stone-cold classic such as Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia in their back catalogue, there is a tiresome clunker such as 2005′s Odditorium or Warlords of Mars. Thankfully, this eighth offering finds them eschewing the painful over-self-consciousness which can occasionally blight their output and remembering what it is that they do best: They are a fantastic, viscerally thrilling rock ‘n’ roll band. This back-to-basics mentality permeates This Machine from opening track “Sad Vacation,” a knowing throb of disdainful art-school cool, to razor-sharp proto-grunge romps such as “I Am Free” and “Enjoy Yourself.” The latter number, which reliably sardonic vocalist Courtney Taylor-Taylor delivers in the style of Iggy Pop, finds him admitting his Achilles heel: “I used to be a fool, too cool for school.” Of course, attitude is a big part of the Dandy Warhols’ appeal, and there is plenty left to go around, from the Lennon-referencing “Alternative Power to the People” to a preposterously lugubrious cover of Merle Travis’s “16 Tons.” This Machine is a truly marvellous thing: a rock band back on top of their game, remembering why they exist.
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