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The Dandy Warhols - Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia Live At The Wonder (Album Review)

Friday, 28 March 2014 Written by Graeme Marsh

Last year marked the 13th anniversary of ‘Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia’, the Dandy Warhols’ third, and most enduring, album.

The classic slice of indie-rock was treated to a bells and whistles reissue that included outtakes, alternative versions and assorted bonus tracks. Strange then, that barely a year later the album has been repackaged again, this time in a live format.

Recorded at The Wonder Ballroom in their hometown of Portland, Oregon in June of last year, the tracklisting here follows the same path as the original album. Things kick off with the excellent single Godless and, in all honesty, it’s a shaky start recording wise.

The guitars are tinny, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of the song, which remains a brooding masterpiece. Here, it’s given a slightly extended running time and is underpinned by superb trumpet work by Cory Gray.

The big hitters on the album are, predictably, the other singles: Horse Pills, Get Off and Bohemian Like You. But, the versions here don’t add anything to the original cuts, with the up tempo Get Off in particular sounding a little rough around the edges thanks to speedy chord changes and a higher key for Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s normally husky vocal hush. Bohemian Like You gets the biggest crowd reception, to the surprise of precisely no-one, but the crisp clarity of that guitar riff also falls short of the studio effort.

It is in fact the less heralded numbers that provide the biggest highlights. Mohammed ticks along with crystal clear acoustic guitar, complemented by eerie keyboards and perfectly executed electric guitars. Similarly, the heavier riff of Nietzsche provides more ear candy as an extra minute is tacked on to the original running time.

Solid proves to be a more manageable song vocally as Taylor-Taylor’s almost spoken lyrics weave their spell above keyboard swirls, and Sleep, despite some inconsistent distorted vocal effects, is reproduced sublimely thanks to some fine backing harmonies. Taylor-Taylor puts in possibly his best vocal performance, though, on Big Indian.

With the reissue still so fresh in the memory it’s hard to see the release of this live album as anything other than overkill. In fact, it should probably have been included as a bonus disc at the time. As it is, it’s a bit of an afterthought and, as such, one that will likely appeal only to those that can’t get enough of these songs.

It is a classic album, but there are other superb moments in the Dandys' back catalogue that are just as essential, in particular the arguably superior ‘Come Down’. Sadly, with the now overwhelming presence of ’Thirteen Tales...’, in its various guises, these gems are readily overlooked by a public that increasingly doesn’t know what they’re missing.

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