The Dirtbombs - Party Store - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Dirtbombs - Party Store

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2011-01-31

You've gotta hand it to The Dirtbombs. On paper, everything about them screams 'reductionist Stalinist indie-boy wank fantasy'. And yet, there seems to be something in their very DNA which sets them apart, keeps them on a stubbornly experimental path. Whether it's the so-wrong-it's-genius dual bass and drums line up, their early modus operandi as a singles-only band, or their decision to cover soul and funk classics by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone and George Clinton in a garage punk style on their most famous album, Ultraglide on Black, this band has been pushing the envelope with little fuss for more than 15 years now.

Party Store is their grandest, most ambitious and craziest concept yet. Here, the Detroit rockers reinterpret home-grown techno tracks from the 80s and 90s. Is it successful? Well, that depends on the parameters by which you define success. There's no question that the band have managed to coherently translate the squelchy, hissing minimalist sounds of early techno into music which can be played by a full rock band, along with the occasional electronic embellishment. On the other hand, is this a record you're going to come back to once the initial curiosity has worn off? Well, that's debatable.

Some of Party Store works really well, and it's usually the riskiest gambits which pay off the biggest. For example, two wildly disparate tracks form the album's standout moments: 'Tear the Club Up' is 1:42 of bratty punk noise, sticking out like an infected piercing from the longer, looser tracks around it and all the better for that. 'Bug in the Bassbin', at the other extreme, is a 20-minute-plus jazz odyssey which evolves into an acid rock freak-out. It features synth contributions from Carl Craig, who composed the original under the guise of Innerzone Orchestra. Leaving aside the album's concept, these stand as just great pieces of music. Their version of 'Shari Vari' by A Number of Names also works really well, with frontman Mick Collins delivering a great Kraftwerk-style deadpan vocal over a monotonous, clanking beat. It sounds like some great lost work of German post-punk. Opening track 'Cosmic Cars', meanwhile, is heavy and funny, like early Pere Ubu at their most monolithic.

Elsewhere, however, a slight feeling of pointlessness hangs over proceedings. The band's cover of Derrick May's 'Strings of Life' is just formless and repetitive, while 'Alleys of Your Mind' is nothing but bog-standard mod-rock. You wouldn't dance to this stuff and it's doubtful you'll listen to it more than once either. The most recognisable cover here is Inner City's 'Good Life', thanks to the band's faithful rendering of the original's vocal hook. As on Ultraglide on Black, Collins' deep, silky voice lends itself well to the lyric's soul exaltations. However, the intentionally discordant, choppy guitars ruin a song which has good vibes written into its very soul. It's like bashing out a death metal cover of Katrina & the Waves' 'Walking on Sunshine'. What, other than the knowledge you can do it, would be the point?

So perhaps, overall, Party Store is a qualified success. There's enough good music here to make it worth the journey, although a great EP would have been better and more fun than the ultimately patchy album we have.

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