Concept albums are notoriously tricky endeavors in that even what seems like an airtight, fascinating thesis can come undone in the execution. Odditorium or Warlords of Mars, however, illustrates another problem with concept albums, which is that coming up with an airtight, fascinating thesis can present an unclearable hurdle of its own. Starting as it does with a spoken-word intro from A&E’s Bill Kurtis, who explains that The Dandy Warhols invented rock & roll “after the great war,” the album’s parade through multiple genres that band attempts to re-imagine through the lens of their brand of art-rock comes off as incredibly self-indulgent and even bitter. Having only flirted with commercial success and never really capturing the critical community, The Dandy Warhols’ use of ironic handclaps and they-have-to-be-kidding sonic dissonance throughout Odditorium ultimately sounds like the work of a band that’s unjustly smug. Condescending to the whole of mainstream pop music—perhaps the worst track on Odditorium, even, is “The New Country,” which uses a banjo so poorly that the song is an imagining of what the offspring of Beck’s “Sexxx Laws” and Big & Rich’s “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)” might sound like if that offspring suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome—is a difficult enough position to adopt even when one isn’t recording an album that obviously, as lead single “Smoke It” proves, requires drugs both for its creation and its end-use. Frontman Courtney Taylor’s vocals sound either lazy or impossibly strained (particularly on album-closer “A Loan Tonight”), and, if the excellent documentary DiG! left any lingering doubts as to his desperation to be taken seriously, Odditorium puts those to rest. Pity it does so in a way that, in being so off-putting as to alienate the band’s fanbase, it might lay The Dandy Warhols’ career to rest in the process.
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