There’s only one thing wrong with Dangerous Magical Noise, the latest from Detroit rock gods the Dirtbombs: the release date of 4 November, 2003. Had it come out earlier in 2003, surely enough ears would have found it, and in a perfect world the album would’ve peppered 2003 best-of lists far and wide. As it is, it’s already mid-2004, but the calendar removes no luster from one of the best garage acts to call the Motor City home.
With all the hype surrounding the White Stripes, it’s easy to forget that the current Detroit renaissance was underway long before Jack and Meg woke up one morning and became critical darlings (though I’m risking a black eye courtesy of Jack if I don’t at least give him some credit for the Detroit scene’s revival). Of course, one of the city’s leading lights, dating back to the mid-’80s, is Dirtbombs frontman Mick Collins, who’s been rocking since Jack White was an upholsterer named John Gillis. Be it with the Gories, the Screws, Blacktop, or now with the Dirtbombs, Collins is a fixture in the city’s garage scene, and Dangerous Magical Noise — like pretty much every other release to which he has attached his name — proves that the man knows how to rock.
There’s plenty of straight-up garage (whatever that means) on Dangerous …. Album opener “Start the Party” opens with a roaring crowd, Collins asking “How y’all doin’?” and a greasy guitar riff — and doesn’t let up from there. The two-minute burst “Stuck in Thee Garage” could and should be the current revival scene’s anthem; “Earthquake Heart” and “Motor City Baby”‘s respective fuzz and jangle are timewarped straight outta 1965. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Detroit garage CD without a tip of the cap to the Stooges. “Thunder in the Sky” (with its pilfering of “Raw Power”‘s riff) and “I’m Through with White Girls” fill that bill.
Listing off songs’ traits is all well and good, but the real lesson to glean from Collins and the Dirtbombs is that you can’t fake soul and you can’t fake cool. As encyclopedic as Collins’ knowledge of the last 40 years of garage is, he’s equally hep to his city’s R&B/soul scene. (If you don’t already own it, pick up the Dirtbombs’ 2001 Motown homage/update Ultraglide in Black. It’s every bit the gem that Dangerous Magical Noise is.) Tunes like “Sun is Shining” and “Stop” highlight Collins’ surprisingly soulful voice and separate Dangerous … from the innumerable garage albums released weekly. You won’t find anything like this on the new Von Bondies’ CD. I know; I already checked.
And like I said, you can’t fake cool and Mick Collins has cool in spades. Dangerous … doesn’t overreach or come across as too eager to please. Lord knows, with the spotlight shining on any and every fuzzed-out garage band that calls Detroit home, Mick Collins is in the right place at the right time to become moderately famous. But such striving is not cool. Collins exudes a confidence on Dangerous Magical Noise that no appearance on T.R.L. can beat.