the Intelligence, Get Down Syndrome
Wed Aug 15, Crocodile, $8.
Mick Collins may well be the king of fucked-up, funked-out garage punk. The Detroit native has been breaking guitar strings for over 15 years, claiming he still has only mastered two chords. He's fried the blues, soul, and punk rock and roll in so many electric batters you could open a small novelty store specializing in his many incarnations. Like a kid high on fistfuls of Pixy Stix locked in a vinyl candy store, he is constantly distracted and jacked on explosive energy.
Collins' fidgety sonic propulsions have helped fire up some of the best primitive punk acts of the last decade--Blacktop, King Sound Quartet, the Screws, and seminal garage revival band the Gories. Collins also turned out a house music single, speaks of making a techno album, writes shoegazer pop songs, and is wrapping up a funk album with the Voltaire Brothers. His deep, soulful voice has seeped into records by Rocket from the Crypt, the Cheater Slicks, and Andre Williams, and he's mixed and produced tracks by bands like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and the Demolition Doll Rods.
Although Collins seems to eat, breathe, and secrete music, he claims his madness has a method. "One of my firm beliefs is that if you can't dance to it, it isn't rock and roll," he says with a hearty laugh. "So every band I play in, you're gonna be able to dance to it. Overall, Detroit is really a rah-rah, fist-in-the-air kind of rock town. From soul music to techno, we like music that has a strong rhythm."
The Dirtbombs is Collins' latest garage punk vehicle, and unlike the other collective acts he's worked with, he can truly call this one his own. Now in its ninth year and 10th lineup, the band is an unorthodox five-piece, consisting of two bassists (Tom Potter and legendary Ghetto Records owner Jim Diamond) and two drummers (Pat Pantano and Ben Blackwell), with Collins on vocals, guitar, and a handful of other noisemakers.
The thinking behind the Dirtbombs was rooted in Collins' naturally rebellious nature. "I've always had a really bad streak, where if everybody in the crowd's doing it, I'm hell-bent on not doing it," he says. "The Dirtbombs is all experimentation. We started out around all these bands that didn't have bass players--so I was like, all right, I want a band that has two bass players."
Collins is constantly wiggling out from under musical conventions, even within his own creations. Listen to all the Dirtbombs singles and LPs and you'd be hard-pressed to find two that sound alike. The band's debut full-length, Horndog Fest, is an exposed punk erection, with songs like "I Can't Stop Thinking About It" and "My Heart Burns with Deeps of Lurve" digging into dirty, noisy spaces. It's a stripped-down play at rock and roll that spazzes in and out of tune--the shit that bands like Pussy Galore and DMZ experimented with, but those acts weren't touched with blues eruptions the color of the Dirtbombs' work.
The newest Dirtbombs release, Ultraglide in Black, is a more polished affair, even if that sheen comes from a greasy spit shine. Ultraglide is a collection of covers from Collins' youth, from Sly & the Family Stone to the Miracles and Marvin Gaye. It contains a fuzzed-out cover of Stevie Wonder's "Livin' for the City" that almost puts the original to shame, and a reworking of Barry White's "I'm Qualified to Satisfy You" that will make you a believer.
"We may do the same thing for one whole album, but don't look for us to do the same thing on the next one," says Collins of the Dirtbombs' constant musical shift. "We just did a glam rock single called 'Motor City Baby,' and our Christmas single last year was all folk pop. Basically an album to the Dirtbombs is a big single with a bunch of little singles on it. I don't like to hear the same kind of music for more than 30 minutes at a stretch, let alone play it. We don't necessarily go into a whole new style--like I wouldn't want a band like the Residents to start playing heavy metal--but just sort of branch out and do new things. With the Dirtbombs, I brought that idea to the band at the beginning, so we never sound the same from record to record.
"Our lack of a style is a style," he jokes. "I guess we're a band for people with short attention spans."
When it comes to infectiously loud garage punk, though, long attention spans are about as useless as toilet-paper earplugs. Mick Collins and the Dirtbombs are skilled at lobbing quick-release fireballs loaded with all kinds of hip-grinding racket, and if that's not gonna move your ass even a little, you better just move right on outta the way.