The Dandy Warhols were exceptionally loose Sunday night at the 9:30 club, which made the Oregon quartet quite engaging -- when it wasn't playing music. Between songs, singer-guitarist Courtney Taylor-Taylor and keyboardist Zia McCabe chatted amusingly, and the band's willingness to ignore the set list was a welcome change from over-choreographed rock acts.
As musicians, however, the Dandies don't do loose very well at all, which is the lesson of their unfortunate latest album, the shambling "Odditorium or Warlords of Mars."
"Odditorium" songs such as "Smoke It" and "The New Country" are vaguely countrified vamps punctuated by simple trumpet flourishes. Although the album's trumpeter, Achilleas Anastasopolis, joined the Dandies onstage to reproduce his parts, his addition did nothing to focus the group.
Taylor-Taylor and Peter Holmstrom model their guitar interplay on the propulsive churn of the Velvet Underground's Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison -- "Dandy Warhols" is a jokey tribute to Velvets patron Andy Warhol -- but their long instrumental passages were ruts rather than grooves. McCabe's bass lines, played on a keyboard with one hand, had more swing than the combined guitars.
The Dandies basically are a garage band with a snarky sense of humor. So such straightforward, unjammed songs as "Minnesoter" and "Lou Weed" worked fine, as did Taylor-Taylor and McCabe's jibes at Oasis. But the two-hour set stalled too often for all but the most faithful fans. As for the stomping impromptu encore of "The Little Drummer Boy," it might have appealed to listeners who can stand hearing that tune ever again, in any form.
-- Mark Jenkins