A vehement perfectionist, I never really “got” live versions of tracks, let alone entire live albums. There never seemed a place in my immaculate iTunes library for messy, unpolished live recordings. If I wanted to hear someone shouting “WOOOO!” over my favorite song, I would have bought concert tickets. Besides, live recordings always seemed like a cop out –– rehashing older material rather than trying to produce something new.
But on March 25, the release of Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia Live at the Wonder from psychedelic-tinged rock ‘n’ roll veterans The Dandy Warhols showed me the rugged brilliance of a harnessed live sound.
Released in 2000, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia is considered The Warhols’ breakout album, making it an easy choice for the first live album from a band that has been around for nearly 20 years. Conveniently, the original album bursts with the kind of sounds that demand to be heard reverbing through a concert hall, making it a perfect fit for the live album treatment at the Wonder Ballroom in The Warhols’ hometown of Portland, Ore.
In fact, having listened to the album in its entirety first as a live recording and then as a studio release, the live version is clearly superior. The Warhols — especially in their early days — have always had a raw, meandering sound that, after hearing all 13 tracks of Thirteen Tales live, is only fenced in and limited by the confines of a traditional studio album.
The echoing reverb of “Godless” kicks off the album and, though frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s voice initially feels dwarfed by the wall of sound, he finds his footing within the layers of trippy guitars and lazy trumpets. “Nietzsche” is a standout, almost bowling over the listener with meaty guitar riffs and heavy drums, much like the later “Horse Pills.” The ironically light “Solid” sees Taylor-Taylor’s typically flat, sardonic vocals venturing into higher octaves — you can practically see him bopping around onstage, unable to contain himself. Slower numbers like the appropriately named “Sleep” simply smolder, never outwearing their welcome. And “Bohemian Like You,” arguably the Warhols’ biggest hit, packs more foot tapping, head-bopping sing-along-ability than previously thought possible.
To put it simply, Thirteen Tales Live rocks. A perfect combination of unpolished and unapologetic, the album itself is an unhindered stream of sound that vibrates with the energy of a live show, but one that is easily accessed through headphones at a moment’s notice. Wasted dude sloshing beer all over you not included.