Mick Collins, you my nigga. For real, I owe you a Guinness, or three, for the glorious squall you and the Dirtbombs have brought to this black boy's life. My brother Samson, a fellow funk/soul aficionado, put me up on your Beyond-Thunderdome 2001 covers LP Ultraglide in Black; he passed it to me admitting that he just couldn't get into it—"I mean, why fuck up some perfectly good Motown shit?" Bro, I was hooked from note-goddamn-one on your revved-up take on J.J. Barnes' classic "Chains of Love." And I insist that at my funeral or whatever, your version of Phil Lynott's "Ode to a Black Man" be blasted as the kegs are tapped.
God knows the Dirtbombs could've stayed draped-up and dripped-out in Marvin and Barry's loverman robes and ridden a garage-soul train straight to Valhalla. I know I expected as much when I bought 2003's Dangerous Magical Noise, but my cool couldn't possibly withstand the furnace blast of charged-up, startlingly radio-ready rock 'n' roll, I mean, how could it? Even better than the schticky shitbag soul revue I expected, or the straight-ahead garage that purists craved, Collins & Co. proved a band wily enough to devour influences ranging from the Bee Gees to Flipper and remake them in their own scrappy underdog image. Copping 2005's two-disc singles rompilation If You Don't Already Have a Look (not to mention a big fat late pass to Mick's OG garage monsters, the Gories) only further cemented my Collins fandom. Which brings us to today, and the Dirtbombs' biggest curveball yet—an album themed around urban paranoia.
We Have You Surrounded takes off from the starting line in great form (the Ultraglide-vibe of "Ever Lovin' Man," the Sparks cover "Sherlock Holmes"), and it already had me dancing in the end zone four tracks deep. But it fumbles in the second half with some tracks both merely uninspired ("Pretty Princess Day") and deserving of burial far, far from human ears (the eight-minute acre of noise "Race to the Bottom"). This LP was originally slated to be a five-song EP, which could've been fantastic; instead, it's nearly half filler—it's like All Eyez on Me all over again. Okay, "filler" ain't fair, some of the more concept-heavy tracks just feel like a stretch. Take the centerpiece "Leopardman at C&A," co-written by comics legend Alan Moore; now I may have a permanent nerdboner for Watchmen, but I'm not feeling this shit, yo—what is this, 2112?
But I can almost forget all of that just for the unexpected sweetness of the wistful apocalypse-pop of closer "La Fin Du Monde"—an uncharacteristically beautiful ditty that kind of evokes TV on the Radio doing a straight-faced Ronettes cover (in French). This would probably fit right into the next Wes Anderson flick, not to mention the full-length album of bubblegum pop the Dirtbombs been threatening/promising for years.
That said, it takes more than a clunky concept album to make me turn in my colors and switch up. Just like it would take more than hurricanes, plagues, and heavy artillery to keep me from seeing one of my favorite bands live, where the shit really goes down. Even if it's the end of the world, Guinness on me, baby.