Detroit's Dirtbombs show plenty of guts at Brooklyn show

It took guts for the Dirtbombs to make “Party Store,” the album of classic Detroit techno covers they released earlier this year. It took even more guts for the beloved Motor City garage-rock quintet to stick the 21-minute “Bug In the Bassbin” — three bass notes, repeated ad nauseam, with a whole lot of percussive clatter and squealing guitar — right in the middle of the record.

Gutsier still was the group’s decision to play “Bassbin” early in its set Saturday night at the Bell House in Brooklyn, N.Y.

On “Party Store,” it’s possible to fast-forward or skip the track altogether, but Saturday night, the only choice was to lean against the nearest wall and wait for Dirtbombs mastermind Mick Collins to finish mucking around on his Strat and move on to something with some drive and focus.

He and his band mates — two drummers, a bassist, and a second guitarist—eventually did, filling the second half of their set with some of their classic garage and punk-soul jams, but by then, they’d already pushed through 35 minutes of “Party Store,” demonstrating why the admirably ambitious, surprisingly listenable album has limited live appeal.

If nothing else, the show’s challenging first half built anticipation for the more satisfying second — a wild rip through such bash-and-croon favorites as “Get It While You Can,” “Underdog” and “Ode to a Black Man.”

Collins is charismatic enough to justify most of the band’s left-field experimentation, but when he’s in straight-up rock mode, singing like a haggard soul man and beating on his guitar like a Stooge, he embodies the best of his blighted hometown.

During “Can’t Stop Thinking About You,” the second of two encore songs, the Dirtbombs found a happy medium between brazen dance-rock noodling and three-chord battering. After a quick spin through the fuzzy, hooky tune, the band veered off into an extended noise-rock coda. Toward the end, the musicians began filing offstage one at a time, ultimately leaving one of the drummers tapping a cymbal, as if winding things down.

In fact, he was readying a final assault, and when he kicked back in with his big, mean beat, it was like a horror-movie monster punching out of the tomb. Guitarist Ko Melina and bassist Chris Sutton returned to the stage with drumsticks and tag-teamed the vacant kit, ending the night not with techno or punk, but something more primal and ferocious — a last blast of gutsiness.

— Text by Kenneth Partridge, photo by Brian Alesi

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