At first this Portland-based quartet was content to toy with the rudiments of Brit shoegazer pop while front man Courtney Taylor skimmed his record shelves; he'd toss out a quip for each item in his collection ("Just want a girl / As cool as Kim Deal"), and the excitement was in waiting to see which he'd run out of first, snark or LPs. Before it came to that, however, Taylor developed into an ace observer of hipster mores; on singles such as "Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth" and "Bohemian Like You" the band supported his fringe-dweller disses ("I never thought you'd be a junkie because heroin is so passe," from the former) with pilfered hooks tweaked just artfully enough (that's not quite the riff from "Jumpin' Jack Flash" on the latter). Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes coproduced the Dandies' fourth album, Welcome to the Monkey House (Capitol), and his fingerprints (or, I suppose, glove smudges) are all over the group's new electronics-based sound. As you'll recall, Rhodes was one of the Durans who formed the fey Arcadia, not the lunky Power Station, and he's unmistakably of the frills-and-ruffles school of synth pop. But while he's hardly predisposed to talk the band out of the effete pseudofunk sway that's their weakness, his tricky electro bottom manages to compensate for its lack of sonic heft with perky details ("I Am Sound," for instance, has a neat keyboard figure that approximates the one from Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes"). Taylor continues to prance along the fine line between dreadfully bored and dreadfully boring with the carelessness of the most committed solipsist-aesthete; too often, though, lines like "No one knows what song they just heard / Unless someone on the radio tells them first" don't sink into the mix where they belong, and he comes off as all ironic impulse and no follow-through, like one of those jokeless wonders on VH-1's I Love the 80s yammering, "Yeah, man, Eddie Murphy--who let him make a record?" But when his voice finds its niche in the overall sound, as when he's muffled beneath a pretty veil of synths on "Insincere Because I," the band's new direction pays off big. After all, no one ever listened to the shoegazers--or Duran Duran--for lyrical content, did they? Saturday, September 6, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ray Gordon.