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The Dirtbombs - Party Store

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Artist: The Dirtbombs

Album: Party Store

Label: In the Red

Review date: Jan. 31, 2011

This one didn’t have to be good to be interesting. Detroit’s most unpredictable garage-rock outfit (not an oxymoron!) pays tribute to the Belleville Three and the lost classics of the city’s techno renaissance. Unlike that regrettable wave of Gang of Four wannabes who spent Bush’s first term jacking disco for sex appeal, the Dirtbombs are famously fluent in the sweaty, bottom-heavy language of classic R&B, and on Party Store, they create something that isn’t quite rock, isn’t quite funk, and isn’t quite dance music, but is a pleasure unto itself, and comes close to justifying that seasonal fat on your ass.

High school friends Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson unofficially founded Detroit techno in the early ‘80s (thereby unofficially founding techno itself, some critics believe, but let’s leave that one alone for now). The scene remained fairly insular – May created nearly half of the music the Dirtbombs cover here under a variety of auspices. As the ‘80s wore on and Detroit quickly disintegrated, along came the dystopian anthems of Cybotron, whose ominous “Cosmic Cars” gets Party Store off to an appropriately propulsive start.

The Bombs’ treatment of the hedonistc club classic “Sharivari” comes next, and it’s the most informative sample of what the band does here. Science says it’s impossible for a live drummer to replicate the precision of a 909, and although Ben Blackwell keeps the beat steady and mimics the fake-handclaps-on-the-twos-and-fours of disco percussion, he creates a much different backdrop for these songs, more akin to a live drummer in a dive club than an electronic beat in a dance club. (Mathematics aside, a real bass drum, in the right hands, can always hit harder than a sampler.) Singer Mick Collins’ omnipresent sense of humor is out in force (hear him nail the faux-teutonic accent), but never plays this stuff as kitsch. Like the originals, the covers are equally ridiculous and authoritative, intoxicatingly mindless, overwhelmingly infectious.

The guitars do what guitars do in a garage band: blister, snarl, feed back. And the drums rock the trunk like it’s mandatory. The club kids and the greasers can finally get along.

Techno is, by its nature, hauntingly cold. By pumping some blood to its extremities, the Dirtbombs craft a fresh strain of disco soul. This is some filling party music. It gives as much to the D’s dance music heritage as it takes, and merits widespread imitation.

By Emerson Dameron

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