The concept: Detroit garage rock (unsung) heroes The Dirtbombs cover a slew of tracks from their beleaguered city’s influential techno heritage. Wait, wasn’t it techno that the garage revival was supposed to be rebelling against? Down with the old paradigms; this is the tweens, man! There’s no such thing as a genre any more.
Track one, “Cosmic Car”, says this album is gonna be all kinds of awesome: grumbled post-punk equipped with four guitar chords and one howling lead? Yes, please. Then the album proceeds to get more dancey and poppy as it wears on; by track three, “Good Life”, it does not sound like the same band at all. Suddenly, this dude (Mick Collins, mastermind of the band) has a pretty soulful, clean voice, plus a lady backup singer (that’s bassist Ko Melina) and a sunny outlook. It would be almost overwhelmingly sugary if it weren’t for that messed up, violent electric guitar underneath the beat. This whole idea is multiple shades of weird, and I’m still liking it.
The Beefheartian dueling guitar parts on the instrumental “Strings Of Life” combine with a peaceful, primitive dance groove for a propulsive but, again, strange party-starter. “Alleys Of Your Mind” returns to the “Cosmic Car” motif, albeit more sprightly. And then comes the curveball: “Bug In The Bassbin”. Its first two minutes are nothing but alien robot loops, and then a martial beat begins as Collins begins to squeeze out a heavily reverbed, half Floydian/half Neil Young guitar solo…and this goes on for twenty minutes. I won’t say it’s engaging through and through, but the drinks are still flowing and nobody’s complaining.By the time you hear “Tear The Club Up”, a song James Murphy has to be bummed he didn’t get to first, you realize early techno and garage rock were variations on the same snot-nosed anti-establishment ethos; get the kids into clubs and get their bodies moving, and all of a sudden you’ve got a movement. Smashing the two concepts together like this, The Dirtbombs are merely bringing the PiL concept full-circle, only it’s not revolutionary any more. But it still sounds good.