Vanderslice’s fifth solo album, Pixel Revolt , finds him harping on the theme of disillusionment—which is not a new subject in indie rock, to be sure, but here it translates in so many different forms that it becomes a mutating, believable theme. “Plymouth Rock” finds a soldier, shot and bleeding, questioning why he’s there on the battlefield. The synthy waa-waa sounds grow and wane comfortably in time with a surprisingly upbeat drum tempo—think Bright Eyes’ more electronic work on Digital Ash in a Digital Urn . The same hands-in-the-air defeatism recurs in “Exodus Damage,” which takes the voice of a revolutionary annoyed with the world’s apathy. The irony here is that the song is drizzled with candy-coated trickles of lovely keyboarding, serving as an aural opiate to the hypocrisy of it all.
Then there’s the fantastic “Trance Manual,” which tells the story of an imprisoned journalist in a grimy war prison somewhere pining away for a native siren, whom he refers to as being cloaked in the “flag of a dangerous nation.”
There are glimmers of non-fiction on Pixel Revolt , like in “Dead Slate Pacific,” which could have been written for the Garden State soundtrack by someone like Death Cab for Cutie. The acoustic ballad is laden with self-doubt over the decision to quit antidepressants, as Vanderslice is predictably stricken by a lonely panic. In “Angela,” a song ostensibly about losing his girlfriend’s pet bunny, Vanderslice laments being entrapped by “synthesized, bullshit art dreams.” It’s funny, because from the sound of it, he’s a charter member of the cerebral indie club. Nonetheless, the smack he’s talking has a tendency to strike a chord.
The Dandy Warhols
These days, however, the Dandies’ ravaged immune systems seem to be catching up with them. Odditorium or Warlords of Mars stretches the elastic waistband of youth with an album that’s either really fine kitsch or just plain strung out and lazy. On the bright side, they might merely be stoned—which is probably what they’d prefer you to think anyway, judging from Odditorium ’s overload of drug references and careening, seven-plus-minute opuses through deep space. Unfortunately, however, the end product is an album that is incoherent by all sober standards. Its would-be oblivious tirade is mussed by a smirking commentary on the state of indie rock (whatever that even means), including a couple of jingle-jangle country songs that sound decent until you start considering their cynical White Stripes-gone-country implications, and that clearly intentional rip-off of the Hives.
Thankfully, the band remembered to keep up its studied glaze of indifference throughout. Don’t like the album? Who cares! Nobody was asking you, anyway. Which is too bad, because if you were the Dandies, now would be prime time to start giving a damn. The recent release of Sundance-approved documentary DiG! , which pitted the Dandies against self-destructive nemesis band Brian Jonestown Massacre, shoved their music headlong into the public spotlight. Those coattails couldn’t be too difficult to ride on, even for a bunch of potheads. Of course, following such a path might seem too obvious, and any hipster understands the danger of a cliché. Unfortunately, the alternative is even worse: The Dandy Warhols have finally become a victim of their own passé accusations.
The face of Why Should The Fire Die? depicts a finger dipping tentatively into a candle’s molten wax, and the album requires the same kind of tenderness from its listeners—an understanding for what this postmodern band aims toward: change. The result is a mishmash of old and new Nickel Creek, an album both surprising and familiar. Here, they’ve embraced alternate recording methods—vintage analogue and reverb equipment—that allow yesterday to take today by the hand, making tomorrow an exciting place for Nickel Creek.