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The Dirtbombs - Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey!

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Artist: The Dirtbombs

Album: Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey!

Label: In the Red

Review date: Oct. 1, 2013

Thanks to his time in The Gories more than 20 years back, Mick Collins will never fully shake his designation as a garage-punk elder statesman, but it takes the quickest of glances at his discography to understand that he is a considerably more diverse artist than what that cul de sac of a genre allows for. With The Dirtbombs alone, Collins has delivered a vintage-soul covers record, a classic Detroit techno record, and inspired takes on songs by artists ranging from ESG to Sparks to INXS, among others. Collins is a man who follows his muse.

For The Dirtbombs’ latest release, Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey!, that muse led Collins back to a big bowl of Sugar Smacks on a random Saturday morning circa 1970, and to what is perhaps the most easily disposable yet infectious of all pop music genres: bubblegum. We’re not talking about the generic term for any radio-friendly pop here; rather this is the late-’60s/early-’70s assembly-line tunesmithery aimed straight at the ears of the kiddies and the pocket books of mom and dad. The stuff that made stars out of cartoon characters, brought fortunes to songwriting teams Kasenetz and Katz, and capitalized on the reality that sugar (sugar) is the drug of choice for the pre-teen. This is Buddha Records, the 1910 Fruitgum Company, and Ron Dante.

On the one hand, bubblegum was pure commercial product. It’s package an inspired coupling of the addictive quality of sweets and the addictive quality of a simple pop hook to form a lexicon for puppy love. On the other, bubblegum was a testament to pop songcraft stripped of any artistic pretense and delivered in its most immediate form. It was the “naked truth,” to swipe the title of Kim Cooper and Dave Smay’s informative tome, but it also generated undeniable pop classics. The lasting enthusiasm for it attributable to both its conspicuous catchiness and just how wonderfully weird it all was as a business model. That and probably some blind nostalgia, too.

Collins is clearly intrigued by all aspects of the style, approaching the music without irony but with a necessary sense of whimsy and fully embracing the melodies, the instrumentation, and the ridiculous lyrics. "Crazy for You" has a bouncy Archies-esque acoustic guitar, “Hot Sour Salty Sweet” goofs on the style’s obsession with food, and there’s cowbell and tambourine all over the place here. Collins is likewise familiar with the various branches of the sucrose family tree and offers sly references to bubblegum’s outliers and progeny, with nods to Tommy James, Neil Diamond, The Ramones, and the style’s penchant for light psychedelia.

While bubblegum’s reliance on the hook has afforded Collins the opportunity to write some of the catchiest songs of his career, Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey!’s strongest selling point is its extraordinary attention to detail. Take for example what is perhaps the album’s most quintessentially bubblegum moment: It occurs during The Ohio Express nod "Hot Sour Salty Sweet." It’s a simple fade out that begins at about 2:00 of the song’s 2:18 running time. You might not even fully process it upon first hearing it, but Mick gets it. Let’s not overlook the obvious. Bubblegum was pure product for kids, folks. And no kid, whether its 1970 or 2070, can sit still for longer than two minutes. So let’s move it along, boys. Cut it, press it, and make it pop.

By Nate Knaebel

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