Friday, February 29, 2008

The Dirtbombs Receive A Triumphant 7.1 Pitchfork Review Today.

The Dirtbombs
We Have You Surrounded
[In The Red; 2008]
Rating: 7.1
Original review

On my list of bands most likely to record a concept album about creeping future dystopia, the Dirtbombs were not in the top 10. Yet here we have We Have You Surrounded, which, while featuring the same setup (two bass, two drums, one guitar), and the same knack for inventive cover versions, shifts focus ever so slightly toward cautionary science-fiction. The lyrics take a kaleidoscopic look at the slow decline of civilization, through such as the eyes of Alan Moore (the lyrics for "Leopardman at C&A" were taken from Moore's Songbook), militant and wasted northwestern youth (Dead Moon's "Fire in the Western World"), rebels on the run ("I Hear the Sirens"), and, uh, in French ("La Fin du Monde").

Which, in theory, should work out just fine, as the Dirtbombs were first and foremost a theoretical band. Every record was to work around a new concept and a different sound entirely-- garage punk, classic soul, "car-commercial" ready pop-rock (the bubblegum record still sadly postponed). With this, Collins and co. should be able to just line up the records from their collections that correspond with the theme of paranoia and put the pieces together. No sweat.

But with that distinctive instrumental lineup, that priceless fly-buzzer fuzz tone, and Collins wailing above it all, the Dirtbombs always sounded pretty much like themselves. Songs like "Ever Lovin' Man" won't get mistaken for anyone else, but this might be the first record where they make decisive leaps from their signature sound: Rather than becoming a new band, they simply shoot for being a more versatile one. It should be well within their grasp, but Surrounded was originally slated to be a five-song EP, and I have the sneaking suspicion that "Wreck My Flow" and "Pretty Princess Day" weren't among them, nor were odd transitions like "They Have Us Surrounded" or an eight-minute noise track. "Wreck My Flow" is a leaden litany that's like a garage-punk "We Didn't Start the Fire", and Collins sounds like he's being forced to record at gunpoint as he talk-sings through "Pretty Princess Day".

But there are curveballs that work, for sure: Sparks' "Sherlock Holmes" gets the breathless "Crimson and Clover" treatment, making it all the more seductive without erasing the trace of malice in the original ("Dogs bark and he knows their breed/ And knows where they went last night..."). And the band sticks to a lovingly familiar script on "Ever Lovin Man", where the band cries "yeaaah" before its cathartic chorus like the crowd at a rally race, and chimes in on the silly a capella spy riff on "Indivisible". Not only does it keep things light, they're moments when, perhaps more so than on any previous record, The Dirtbombs sound like a band of five musicians with distinct input, rather than the many arms of Mick.

In contrast, "Leopardman" seems too sober for the urgency of its lyrics, despite having a few choice dystopian images (including "turning CDs into wind chimes," to which longtime vinyl supporters like the Dirtbombs add another layer by claiming here.) "Race to the Bottom" is an aimless collage of laser noises and shortwave radios gone mad, sounding like the robots-fucking track hidden at the end of Odelay, but without the rhythm. "La fin du Monde", however, might be the prettiest Dirtbombs track yet, with the same lo-fi bluster but guitars that shimmer rather than scratch while Collins croons a lullaby-like melody in French.

The band mixing up the palette isn't a bad thing, and Collins, for all of his garage-rock pedigree, has always been a musical dabbler, not least in techno. But a transitional record? Now? After Jim Diamond left and they cleaned house in 2005 with the exhaustive compilation If You Don't Already Have a Look, the pessimist in me thought they were pretty much done. But they came back swinging, and while they swing a little wildly, there are enough safe plays here balanced with new strategies. So what if the best track is a cover, when they're one of the best and cleverest covers acts running (and most of their originals careful tributes besides)? The band's intermittent release schedule just makes them an inflatable clown you can't really knock down; all part of the luxury of only pulling your band together when the fancy strikes you-- or, more importantly, only when you want to.

-Jason Crock, February 29, 2008

The Dirtbombs have some serious touring ahead of them over the next few months:
02/29 Melbourne, AUS @ The Tote
03/01 Perth, AUS @ Amplifier
03/02 Adelaide, AUS @ Rocket Bar
03/04 Geelong, AUS @ Barwon Club
03/05 Brisbane, AUS @ Phoenix
03/06 Hobart, AUS @ The Brisbane
03/07 Melbourne, AUS @ East Brunswick Club
03/08 Sydney, AUS @ Oxford
03/09 Melbourne, AUS @ Golden Plains Festival
03/21 Bloomington, IN @ Jake's Nightclub
03/22 Nashville, TN 2 Mercy Lounge
03/24 Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone Cafe
03/25 Little Rock, AR @ Revolution Music Room
03/26 Dallas, TX @ House of Blues- Cambridge Room
03/27 Austin, TX @ Emo's (Indoor)
03/28 Houston, TX @ Rudyard's British Pub
03/29 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
03/31 Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel
04/01 Birmingham, AL @ BottleTree
04/02 Atlanta, GA @ E.A.R.L.
04/03 Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
04/04 Baltimore, MD @ Sonar
04/05 Washington, DC @ The Rock and Roll Hotel
04/06 Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwell's
04/08 New Haven, CT @ Cafe Nine
04/10 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda's
04/11 New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
04/12 Cambridge, MA @ Middle East
04/13 Montreal, QC @ Cabaret Music Hall
04/15 Ottawa, ONT @ Babylon
04/16 Toronto, ONT @ The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern
04/18 Toledo, OH @ Franckie's
04/19 Ann Arbor, MI @ Blind Pig
05/01 Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall Ballroom
05/02 Madison, WI @ The High Noon Saloon
05/03 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
05/04 Fargo, ND @ Aquarium
05/05 Winnipeg, MB @ West End Cultural Centre
05/06 Saskatoon, SAS @ Louis' Pub
05/07 Calgary, AB @ The Warehouse
05/08 Edmonton, AB @ The Starlite Room
05/10 Vancouver, BC @ Richard's On Richards Cabaret
05/11 Victoria, BC @ Sugar Nightclub
05/13 Seattle, WA @ Neumo's
05/14 Portland, OR @ Dante's
05/16 San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
05/17 West Hollywood, CA @ Troubadour
05/18 San Diego, CA @ The Casbah
05/19 Scottsdale, AZ @ The Rhythm Room
05/20 Tucson, AZ @ Plush
05/22 Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
05/23 Lawrence, KS @ The Bottleneck
05/24 St. Louis, MO @ Creepy Crawl
05/25 Columbus, OH @ The Basement

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