The Dirtbombs have covered plenty of bands over the years, constantly injecting their own feisty garage feel into all kinds of acts, from INXS to Brian Eno to countless soul and R&B artists. Their new record isn’t covers, but the band’s long-promised collection of original bubblegum pop tunes. Oddly enough, though, the band sounds less like itself here than it does playing with other people’s material. They do have some sources here—“We Come in the Sunshine” plays with the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”—but mostly this is the Dirtbombs tapping into a tradition instead of picking highlights from it.
The approach can work—the buzzing “Hot Sour Salty Sweet” or the bright crunch of “Sunshine Girl” are examples—but most of the “bubblegum” effect here is singing about sugary food metaphors. It’s an album that wants to play in a basic pop-music vocabulary, and succeeds, but the rewards of that success are limited. In the end, this set of originals sounds more anonymous than anything we’ve heard from the Dirtbombs in a while. No doubt these songs will come to life on stage, but on record, they land a bit flat.
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