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Dirtbombs - 93 Feet East, London, 20/6/2005

  by Dominic B. Simpson

published: 23 / 7 / 2005

Dirtbombs - 93 Feet East, London, 20/6/2005


The Dirtbombs recently played 93 Feet East as the London date on a world tour. With two bassists and two drummers, Dominic Simpson enjoys some over-the-top rock 'n' roll

It begins with Patrick J. Pantano sitting down alone at his drum stool, and slowly banging out a hypnotic drum beat that’s bizarrely reminiscent of the one that appears on Bauhaus’ ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’. Then second drummer Benjamin Jesse Blackwell appears and gets in on the act. We’re going places. This is how The Dirtbombs begin their set. We’re here to see the gospel as practised by Mick ‘Diamond’ Collins and his band of merry men (and women). The venue is 93 Feet East on Brick Lane, and first on are The Victorian English Gentlemens' Club, who take a weird slant to a lot of the arty post-punk noise being played at the moment. Despite being based in Cardiff, these art students show a very English edge to them that marks them out from all the dross. Their set is dominated by some discordant guitars, clunky bass, and pointedly screeching lyrics on one track about some diva around town, while on another there’s some taped hypnotic synths which works well alongside their lo-fi rumble. Not bad at all. What follows couldn’t be more different: Adult. (the full stop’s intentional) sound nothing like either the night's openers or headliners, instead purveying some seriously dark electroclash soundscapes, offset by Nicola Kuperus’ piercing, banshee wail vocals as she prowls the stage like a woman obsessed. The only acknowledgement of the audience is the aside, “We’re from Detroit, not that you care”, as the punishing machine noise filters punk guitar and dystopian soundscapes. Though traditionally a duo of Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller, they’ve expanded into a trio here, with the two other band members taking backstage on keyboards, drum machines, and distorted guitars to Kuperus’s rambling monologues. The venue’s filled up by now with a serious ‘vibe’. There is a smattering of leather jackets around. A cheer goes up as each member of The Dirtbombs makes their entrance: first there’s Pantano locked into a groove, then Blackwell improvising over the top, then locking down a proper beat. Many other bands have played with two drummers, but never with a coherency quite like this. Then the bands’ two bassists, the sweat-stained Troy and wide-eyed vixen Ko turn up, and finally it’s Mick ‘Diamond’ Collins on vocals and hot-wire guitar chops, all latching on to the rhythm that the drummers have laid down, as they launch into a captivating, high funk version of Curtis Mayfield’s 'Kung Fu'. They look like a real gang. This is serious stuff that makes for an unbeatable spectacle to look at. For the most part, they play the kind of ridiculous high-octane rock n roll that’s always underpinned by Collins' guitar work, which varies between soulful and punk rock. Underpinning it all, however, is an engulfing wave of heavy low-end noise that could only result from a band containing two drummers and two bassists. Collins is right on the mark in those super-big shades and the band are super slick. While it’s easy to lump them in with much of the current garage rock pretenders, The Dirtbombs' sound only partially takes it’s lead from The Stooges; what’s much more evident is the influence of Motown, as well as much of the 60’s girl groups such as The Ronettes and The Shangri-La’s (one of their LP’s, 'Ultraglide in Black', covered the likes of Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye). On this tour, they’re plugging the recent two-CD compilation 'If You Don’t Already Have A Look”, and their set features a mix of covers and originals which alternate between balls-out rock n roll, punk noise, and soul ballads. Here to make some serious noise, we get thrashers like 'Chains of Love', 'Motor City Baby', and 'Underdog' - one of their most well known songs and the one which gets a big cheer here - fitting into the set equally alongside the smooth, laidback likes of 'I’ll Wait' and 'Stop', dedicated “to the women in the house – you know who you are”." If Collins looks like a veteran playing live, it’s because he is, having formed The Dirtbombs back in the early 90’s, and before then (all the way back to 1986) having been a member of The Gories, a bass-less trio in a pre-White Stripes era where it wasn’t common for every other garage rock act and their mate to do so. Judging from the frenzied, sweat-soaked reaction of the audience here, he’s certainly got some legendary status. And tonight’s ending is every much as brilliant as the beginning, with a circular return back to just the two drummers again, as they play a pounding drum beat exactly in time, before climbing – in time with each other – on top of their kits for a salute, before returning to their stools again. This is followed by mayhem as Blackwell begins decapitating his drum kit, just as he did the last time this writer saw them at The Dirty Water Club (only the difference is that time he hung from a pipe near the ceiling). You want two drummers and two bassists? They’ve got it. You want an awesome cover of ‘I’m Qualified to Satisfy You’ by Barry White? They’ve got it. You want some testifying rock n roll with heavy licks ready to damage your cranium? You got it. You want Mick ‘Diamond’ Collins doing the boogie as their frontman ? Hell yeah. The Dirtbombs don’t care for nothing, mister. They laid down some chops and seriously rocked the house like a mutha. Tonight was about the redemptive quality of truly great rock n roll. Really, what more could you want?

Picture Gallery:-
Dirtbombs - 93 Feet East, London, 20/6/2005

Dirtbombs - 93 Feet East, London, 20/6/2005

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Interview (2003)
Dirtbombs - Interview
The Dirtbombs have recorded more records and played more shows than any of versatile Detroit guitarist Mick Collins’ many other groups. Drummer Ben Blackwell chats about their twin bass, twin drum line-up and new album "Dangerous Magical Noise'

live reviews

Babylon, Ottawa,15/4/2008
Dirtbombs - Babylon, Ottawa,15/4/2008
Andrew Carver is impressed by both godfathers of Detroit garage rock, the Dirtbombs, and also support act Kelley Stoltz, at a show at the Babylon in Ottawa
Dominion Tavern, Ottawa, 13/11/2003

digital downloads


Party Store (2011)
Fabulous covers album from acclaimed Detroit garage rockers, the Dirtbombs, who have taken 80's and 90's techno classics from their home city and reinjected them with a new lease of life
We Have You Surrounded (2008)
Dangerous Magical Noise (2003)

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