Music – The Dirtbombs

If you’ve paid any attention, you’ve probably noticed that my musical awareness is running about six or seven years behind the curve. So it will come as no surprise that I had only heard about The Dirtbombs a year or two ago, and only now did I get a chance to see them. But WOW!! It’s gonna take a natural disaster of some kind to keep me from seeing them again if I even get a whiff of them being in town from now on.

The albums are tasty, and full of snarly, crunchy guitars, and graced with some of the most Detroit-incubated-garage-rock-meets-Curtis Mayfield-in-a-Richard K. Morgan-novel-smart- smarter-smartest songwriting you’ll hear from anyone. My own introduction was ‘Dangerous Musical Noise’, which is ripping, but, like most great bands, the one you hear first will inevitably be your favorite. There are six or seven to choose from. But the first of a few cliches-that-are-nonetheless-true I’ll be forced to employ is that the albums, with every good intention, don’t do service to this band live.

The Dirtbombs, led by veteran provocateur Mick Collins, are also novel in their instrumentation. Two drummers, two bass players, and Mick. Based on my earlier listenings, and hearing the mighty slabs of rock-and-roll goodness in person, I was stunned when it dawned on me that Mick is the only guitar player. One of the bass players is actually playing what was alternately identified as a half-scale six-string bass and/or a baritone guitar, permanently set to fuzz, so there’s a lot of higher melodic work being provided by the talented Ko Melina, who dives enthusiastically into the task with a demeanor somewhere between Zhang Ziyi and Chloe Nicole. Troy Gregory provides more traditional bottom, but with two drummers to chase, the man is dead-on precise. The drummers pull a neat trick – they don’t sound like two drummers, just one really big, really good drummer. But if you watch them, they’re always doing two different things; one is always working subtly against the grain of the other. And tight is an overused term, but I haven’t encountered a rhythm section this tight since the goddamn Blasters.

Mick Collins has been in a number of Detroit musical projects, most notably the cult-legendary Gories, as well as Blacktop, The Screws, and funk project The Voltaire Brothers. His songs draw from hard rock, punk rock, garage rock, rhythm and blues, Motown… you name it. In a wonderful interview courtesy of Detroit’s Metro Times,
( ) , Mick talks about coming up in Detroit:

“We used to say, in Detroit, if you only played one kind of music, you weren’t serious… Because everybody in town played in three different bands and each band played a different kind of music. That’s just the way it was done in Detroit; for years and years everybody just played everything. So somebody who just played in one band wasn’t serious about it. He was a hobbyist.”

That positive sense of the businesslike shows up on stage as well. The Dirtbombs are Ramones-like in their patterless, no-pause-between-songs relentlessness, and it’s easy to imagine how exhaustively they rehearse to make it look so effortless. If Lenny Kravitz got anywhere near these guys ripping through “Wreck My Flow” live, his head would explode in jealously and dilletante rage.

You can stream tunes on their web page (“a five-member dance combo…”):

After the Chicago gig, they go to Nashville Tuesday night (City Hall), then work across to the east coast. New York is July 27th at Terminal 5. But don’t worry – they go on the road, generally, twice a year. An album or two will do you nicely, but do not miss this band when they come back. I beseech you. They are true, exhiliarating pros.