Chalk it up to short-term memory that The Capitol Years: 1995 – 2007, the first compilation from the Dandy Warhols, is a pleasant surprise. After peaking with 2000’s excellent Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, the Dandys offered the awful Odditorium or Warlords of Mars and the utterly forgettable Earth to the Dandy Warhols, and the band’s critical and commercial profile plummeted. The Capitol Years serves as an immediate and refreshing reminder that, at one time, the Dandy Warhols were a band worth paying attention to.
Their indie debut, Dandys Rule OK?, is omitted from the retrospective here, as is Earth to the Dandy Warhols. But this anthology still conveys a complete narrative arc for the band. It charts their development from hipster-approved upstarts with a Velvet Underground fetish to a full-bodied, ambitious rock outfit with designs on greatness that they never quite achieved, then their descent into navel-gazing self-indulgence. But even the weakest songs here, such as “Good Morning” from The Dandy Warhols Come Down, which is awash is an unpleasant degree of out-of-tune reverb, speak to the band’s overall strengths.
“Every Day Should Be a Holiday” and “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth,” which was the band’s first minor hit on the modern rock charts, show that the Dandy Warhols’s ability to structure a memorable hook was present from the very beginning. That skill was never put to better use than on “Bohemian Like You” and “Scientist,” which is represented here by the Dandy’s bass-rattling original mix, rather than the version that was remixed by Captiol without the band’s consent and released with a great deal of controversy and ill-will on Welcome to the Monkey House.
Unencumbered by their source album’s pretentious, suffocating concept, “Holding Me Up” and “All the Money or the Simple Life Honey” from Odditorium or Warlords of Mars stand strongly on their own merits, despite their strident production. There’s still no saving that album’s lead single, “Smoke It,” but it’s perhaps the only outright miss in the entire set. Not every track here was released as a proper single, but as a makeshift greatest hits package, the collection suggests that they all should have been. That the lone new song, “This Is the Tide,” with its deep bassline and perfectly pitched hook, favorably recalls Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia-era Dandys suggests that the band might yet rebound out of their recent slump. In that regard, The Capitol Years is as promising a look forward for the Dandy Warhols as it is a testament to the pretty fantastic work they’ve already done.