Music

The Dirtbombs: If You Don’t Already Have a Look

Like the tiger doesn’t belong in that cage, the Dirtbombs don’t belong underground.


The Dirtbombs

If You Don’t Already Have a Look

Label: In the Red
US Release Date: 2005-05-31
UK Release Date: Unavailable
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Insound affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

It was a genius idea. Combine the power of two drummers, two bass players, and one frontman guitarist into an unstoppable force of Detroit funky rock ’n’ soul. Let the drummers synchronize and occasionally counter each other’s rhythms. Have one bassist play the rhythm and the other externalize emotional fuzz riffage like a overloaded circuit. And in front of it all: Mick Collins, a Motor City born and bred guitarist-vocalist whose talents bear the collective conscience of ’60s and ’70s punk, postpunk, and every funky soul sound from Memphis to his hometown.

This has been the Dirtbombs’ formula since their formation as ex-Gorie Collins’s vanity project in 1995. But the concept -- carried out by various lineups, though a fairly stable proposition for the past five years -- was simply too powerful to remain in the vanity drawer for too long. As touring has revealed, the Dirtbombs are a band capable of owning every club they set foot in, a speeding steam engine spraying hot mist and burning fumes to reenergize an art form -- rock ’n’ roll -- given up for dead as recently as the late ’90s. This is not your typical breathy vocal, emotionally detached, jangling, sounds-like-a-washer-and-dryer-in-the-next-room indie rock drivel, no sir. This is the real thing -- from the gut and the heart, not the Starbucks poetry reading.

Albumwise, the Dirtbombs are a relatively easy band to track, as their three long-players -- including 2001’s Ultraglide in Black, the best album of this decade, bar none -- can obtained via the familiar channels. Singles, however, were a much trickier prospect -- replete with limited editions and B-sides on myriad labels. Having a full set of all two-dozen or so 45s seemed impossible -- until this excellent compilation gathered most of them onto two CDs.

Though displaying all the elements that have made the Dirtbombs the greatest of the many fine Detroit bands of recent years, If You Don’t Already Have a Look offers an alternative glimpse of the Dirtbombs at their most eclectic. Not only do the covers run the gamut from snarling ’60s punk to ’80s new wave to even the Bee Gees’ pop-psych period, but the originals are equally diverse.

Disc one collects 29 of said originals in all their raw, raging glory, trading mostly in dissonant postpunk-cum-funk sounds like “Don’t Bogue My High” and “Candyass,” but encapsulating other threads as well. “Broke in Detroit (Again)” and “High Octane Salvation” add a bluesy element to the D-bombs’ basics, the latter containing a witty lampoon of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz” intro. “Encrypted” is likewise an effective dig at Britpop, while the hyper-tempos of “The Sharpest Claws” and “(I’m Not Your) Scratchin’ Post” use feline metaphors to describe relationships. But just when you had them pegged, “Here Comes That Sound Again,” “Tina Louise,” and “They Hate Us in Scandinavia” rock out with melody, adding another shade to the Dirtbombs’ spectrum.

Disc two comprises 23 covers. The Dirtbombs, it should be emphasized, do not trade in mere straight reproductions; they dissect songs, find the key ingredients, then mix them together with their own sound for versions that are always different, sometimes subtly, sometimes radically. Radically different would certainly describe a stomping remake of Stevie Wonder’s “Maybe Your Baby” that benefits from a sped up, half-time arrangement. The Stones’ “No Expectations” gets a minor funky makeover plus a funny interpolation of the “na na na” chorus from “Hey Jude,” covers of Soft Cell (“Insecure ... Me?”) and the Romantics (“Mystified”) come from left field, and the remakes of Lou Rawls’ “A Natural Man” and Flipper’s “Ha Ha Ha” are truer to the originals, yet glossed by a Collins’ paint job.

And for those who’ve erroneously pegged the D-bombs as another Detroit garage rock entity, If You Don’t Already Have a Look offers their versions of two Aussie’60s punk nuggets, the Elois’ “By My Side” and the Black Diamonds’ “I Want Need Love You” -- both cool but neither doing justice to how they sound live, where they attack like a caged tiger being set free after months in captivity.

Like the tiger doesn’t belong in that cage, the Dirtbombs don’t belong underground. They belong in your CD player, on your turntable, or among your mp3 files -- if they’re not there already.

9
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone can undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Music

Roots Rocker Webb Wilder Shares a "Night Without Love" (premiere + interview)

Veteran roots rocker Webb Wilder turns back the hands of time on an old favorite of his with "Night Without Love".

Film

The 10 Best Films of Sir Alan Parker

Here are 10 reasons to mourn the passing of one of England's most interesting directors, Sir Alan Parker.

Music

July Talk Transform on 'Pray for It'

On Pray for It, Canadian alt-poppers July Talk show they understand the complex dualities that make up our lives.

Music

With 'Articulation' Rival Consoles Goes Back to the Drawing Board

London producer Rival Consoles uses unorthodox approaches on his latest record, Articulation, resulting in a stunning, beautiful collection.

Film

Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.

Music

MetalMatters: July 2020 - Back on Track

In a busy and exciting month for metal, Boris arrive in rejuvenated fashion, Imperial Triumphant continue to impress with their forward-thinking black metal, and death metal masters Defeated Sanity and Lantern return with a vengeance.

Books

Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.

Film

Anna Kerrigan Prioritizes Substance Over Style in 'Cowboys'

Anna Kerrigan talks with PopMatters about her latest film, Cowboys, which deviates from the common "issues style" approach to LGBTQ characters.

Music

John Fusco and the X-Road Riders Get Funky with "It Takes a Man" (premiere + interview)

Screenwriter and musician John Fusco pens a soulful anti-street fighting man song, "It Takes a Man". "As a trained fighter, one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to walk away from a fight without letting ego get the best of you."

Books

'Run-Out Groove' Shows the Dark Side of Capitol Records

Music promoter Dave Morrell's memoir, Run Out Groove, recalls the underbelly of the mainstream music industry.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.