15 Minutes Times 10
A Band Too Cool for This Planet Doesn’t Know When to Stop
The Dandy Warhols give off such a too-cool-for-this-planet vibe that I used to think they were just a bunch of attractive slackers who did nothing but inhale substances and cavort with models. Whenever a new record of theirs would pop up, I’d be surprised to discover that they found time to actually write music, and even more surprised when their potent blend of Bowie glam and My Bloody Valentine noise-pop turned out to be much better crafted than the work of bands I assumed spent every waking hour in the practice room. Their new Welcome to the Monkey House is a sleek, synth-driven love letter to ’80s new wave and college rock that stands out from the current crop of Reagan-era revivalists. So when the Portland, Oregon, quartet took the stage at the Bowery Ballroom last Tuesday night, I figured they’d play for 45 minutes and then be off to some exclusive after-party.
Wrong. Turns out the Dandy Warhols are really the E Street Band, willing to prove it all night for your love. But these guys (and girl) generate about as much sweat in an entire set as Springsteen does in one song. Frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor languidly strummed his guitar and made jokes with the audience, while unbelievably cute keyboardist Zia McCabe smoked, banged a tambourine, and pushed some buttons here and there. Drummer Brent deBoer, sporting the fattest ‘fro this side of Kimya Dawson, and guitarist Peter Loew seemed to be the only people onstage doing any work. I know they were doing work because, an hour into the set, deBoer took off his shirt and Loew took off his jacket.
That was around the time the girls in front of me got busted for smoking pot, and it was when the Dandys launched into “Horse Pills,” a trashy rocker from 2000’s stellar Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia. After a few too many beautiful but boring shoegazer-guitar jams, this was a nice change of pace. The show’s next highlight didn’t come until 90 minutes later, when the Dandys played “The Last High,” a wistful Monkey House ballad benefiting from laid-back delivery. They were still going strong when I left, two and a half hours after they had started. So maybe I’m the real slacker here. —Amy Phillips
No Aural Orgasms
A Muse’s New Age Worldbeat Tribute to Serge Gainsbourg
Jane Birkin is not bashful about stumping for Serge Gainsbourg’s legacy. Of course, the 55-year-old singer-actress has the right. Gainsbourg’s decade-long companion, mother to his children, recipient of his more infamous compositions, Jane B was muse and mouthpiece. Why should this arrangement end just because Gainsbourg passed on 12 years ago?
Serge is at the center of Arabesque, the album that brought Birkin through packed Florence Gould Hall last Thursday. Not just Gainsbourg’s songs—which are reimagined by Algerian violinist Djamel Benyelles as North African bedouin drones for percussion, piano, and lute, and which make up nearly the entire program—but also Gainsbourg’s ghost. Birkin exudes a dazzling combination of New Age naïveté and lived-in beauty that gives her a cool Northern California hippie mom aura. With all the between-song testimonials and poems, the red and black mood lighting, and the intimate setting of the hall, Arabesque became less a concert and more someone’s imagined wake—even if numerous well-meaning, pan-global tints and lack of booze are no way to celebrate a life inspired by lustful, carnal urges.
Thank goodness the ethereal wasn’t the entire picture. Birkin’s voice remains a perfect cabaret instrument, speak-singing words before stretching above its natural range to break ever so innocently. Little girl lost . . . but curious. The few times Arabesque provided rhythmic pleasures—Fred Maggi’s piano leading the rumba-fied, playful “Couleur Café,” the torch song “Amours des Feintes” (“Love of the Dead”) filled with short phrases, Benyelles’s violin weaving a gypsy melody—the combination of voice and music achieved something akin to universality. These highlights celebrated life and its aftermath through wonder and a foreign beat, something Gainsbourg used to do without trying.
Too often, though, the largely French and largely enamored audience embraced this one-world séance without raising a brow. After an instrumental interlude, Birkin came back out barefoot, wearing a silk red dress that made her the picture of a lover abandoned, and began a free-associative dance to the band’s New Age world sway. One could only wonder what the self-professed dandy being memorialized would have muttered. —Piotr Orlov