Electing to rank all the albums of Detroit’s foremost garage-punk deconstructionists the Dirtbombs is no simple task, as it’s so often their sworn mission to make everything they put out sound totally different from the last. The band is a sterling showcase for leader Mick Collins and was seemingly started to show off his wide-ranging musical influences after the Gories took a break. (Seriously, this dude’s record collection must consist of…well, ALL of them.) It’s high time they got their due on our humble site, so please enjoy our ranking of every Dirtbombs studio album. And, c’mon: these guys gotta lug two whole damn drum sets to any show they play, so let’s show them a little respect why don’t we, hmmm?
6. Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey! (2013)
As a concept, Collins’ long-awaited foray into Archies/Partridge Family turf is a fantastic one, but if my editors caught me giving this bubblegum pop album anything but the bottom spot, I’d be put in punk-satire-website solitary confinement with the folks trying to get Captain Beefheart headlines approved. This album seems to exist as an exercise in “how many different ways can we deconstruct “Yummy Yummy Yummy” (in fact “Hot Sour Salty Sweet” straight up pilfers its chorus!) That said, every song on “Ka-Blooey” paints a fluorescent vision of the Dirtbombs leaving a high school dance gig to go solve an animated mystery with their talking pet, and that’s pretty cool. Plus, we love a title with a “Calvin & Hobbes” reference, don’t we folks? Take this ranking with a grain of salt and a few dozen truckloads of Pixi-Stix.
Play It Again: “Crazy For You”
Skip It: “Girl on the Carousel” (We here at the Hard Times are well-known for our “anti-oboe” stance)
5. Horndog Fest (1998)
The Dirtbombs’ first full-length LP is probably their least focused offering…but since the Dirtbombs started as a “single releases only” experiment, this is something you just gotta embrace. Hot ‘n heavy live tracks like “She Blinded Me with Playtex” and “Shake!! Shivaree” provide a shambolic looseness that most echoes the type of thing Collins perfected in the Gories (although the Gories themselves are PROUD imperfectionists, they’d be the first to admit.) It’ll definitely leave you pumped and wanting more, and puzzled over why these guys weren’t bigger than the White Stripes. But be forewarned: the album cover may have your parents asking you some invasive questions.
Play It Again: “Can’t Stop Thinking About It”
Skip It: “My Heart Burns With Deeps of Lurve”
4. We Have You Surrounded (2008)
As the album title may give away, this is the Dirtbombs at their most lyrically paranoid…And justifiably so! Have you gotten a load of this planet lately? Woof! Here we have a collection of songs about the downfall of society that are as relevant today as they ever were (folks, we gotta stop this society thing from downfalling, and SOON!) Collins’ vocals are in fine form (when are they not, this guy could croon circles around you with laryngitis) and he even puts the echo effects to good use, amplifying the anxiety factor. Throw in both a Sparks and Dead Moon cover and we’re happy…still upset about that whole “world collapsing” stuff, but, y’know, may as well crank up those guitars while we still have a power grid.
Play It Again: “Leopardman at C&A”
Skip It: “Race to the Bottom”
3. Party Store (2011)
The sheer feat of covering deep Detroit techno tracks and turning them into heavy, driving rock songs is something NASA scientists were probably hard at work on, but lucky for us, the Dirtbombs beat ‘em to it. Their take on pulsating house slabs like Inner City’s “Good Life” are somehow more hypnotic than the originals, letting you get lost in a groove while still never letting you suffer withdrawal from those screeching fuzz guitars we know you kids can’t get enough of. It sounds exactly like a rave is happening after hours at the Ford assembly line. The ‘bombs are always taking the time to salute others’ music, we hope they don’t mind us using this opportunity to salute THEM for once.
Play It Again: “Cosmic Cars”
Skip It: “Bug in the Bass Bin” is more than 20 minutes long, which we know could pose a problem for those of you with addled attention spans.
2. Dangerous Magical Noise (2003)
This album doesn’t just want you to feel the steady pour of sweat drip down your face, it wants you to wring it out into a highball glass and chug it for more fuel. A straightforward ripper of a record, this one’s all about fun. Highlights include the “rolling down a never-ending cartoon freeway” vibe of “F.I.D.O” and the “how have these guys not written a song about being stuck in the garage yet?” pounder “Stuck in Thee Garage.” Throw this on the next time your head’s in need of a proper banging. “Dangerous?” Yes. “Magical”? Oh hell yeah. “Noise”? No way, baby, this is MUSIC!!!
Play It Again: “Get It While You Can”
Skip It: Actually, you know what, skip “Get It While You Can” so I can use it on the soundtrack if I ever make a movie. You’d just steal it for yourself.
1. Ultraglide in Black (2001)
A masterpiece through and through. Collins valiantly leads his roving team through an endlessly impressive gauntlet of soul and R&B covers that work insanely well when peered at through garage-punk shades. Throw a dart at the tracklist and any one you hit will have your speakers, and your ears, eating good for the next three minutes. From songs everyone knows off the top of their heads like Stevie Wonder’s “Living For the City,” to songs everyone SHOULD know off the top of their heads like “Ode to a Black Man” (off Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott’s second solo album), Ultraglide is the perfect showcase for Mick’s velvet vocal cords. An absolute crash course on some of the finest American music ever made…and we do put the emphasis on “crash,” since this will undoubtedly have you running red lights from singing along.
Play It Again: “Your Love Belongs Under a Rock” the album’s sole original
Skip It: And grind the party to a screeching halt?! Just think of the sour looks you’d get from everyone on the dance floor!!!