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August 22nd, 2001 By Brian Libby, Sam Dodge Soule | Sonic Reducer
 

Krautrockers vs. Detroit Thugs in Fatal Showdown

New disc from Motor City madmen the Dirtbombs and U.S. debuts from the krazy Krautrock of Neu!

     
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THE DIRTBOMBS: ULTRAGLIDE IN BLACK (In the Red)

The Gories' Mick Collins lends his filthy genius to a soul-rock torpedo--number 19,258 (with a bullet) on Amazon.

Those who have spent their summer with such grade-A soul revivalists as the Detroit Cobras and the Now Time Delegation may assume these bands' tempestuous embrace between church gospel and nightclub rhythm and blues can't be re-enacted again. At least, not any time soon.

Can I get a witness?

For the third time this season, another association of rockers from the garage-punk underground, the Dirtbombs, has emerged to re-stage Al Green's and Aretha Franklin's famous spiritual groove party, with a smoldering little get-down called Ultraglide in Black. Unlike their city-mates the Detroit Cobras and their Life, Love and Leaving, the Dirtbombs refuse to polish their renditions up to a glaring high sheen. And, unlike singer Mick Collins' former bandmates in the Now Time Delegation, who recently released the wonderful, down-home Southern Watch For Today, the Dirtbombs favor a vibe seized by the big-city tumult of Motown. Ultraglide is one part sizzle, one part steam, with six angry fistfuls of sand thrown straight through the mix, sort of the older-brother figure of bands like Now Time and the Detroit Cobras, the kid who struck out on his own, tried real hard and ultimately came to no good.

It feels like the record Collins, former member of legendary house-rockers the Gories and boomin' black godfather to pasty '60s-lovin' punx worldwide, has had stewing within him for years. Many fans have waited just as long. Past Dirtbombs efforts have often been too wide-ranging and inconsistent. Today, Collins limits his experimental leanings to the skewed (and very fine) L.A. art/blues band the Screws, which also has a new long-player on In The Red. For this effort, the revolving Dirtbombs recruit an unkempt, rhythm-rigid lineup, and Collins returns to the brutal ways of his Gories past.

We find his Howlin' Wolf vocal resonance, sick, twisting guitar leads and lung-ripping harp feverishly at work, mining his family's generation-spanning record library--of which he is sole custodian--for all the blood, sweat and tears he can find (and create). Rarities and classics ranging from Curtis Mayfield to George Clinton to Stevie Wonder fall under his cracked focus. Deep in a pocket of total soul control, Mick and the boys effect a riot of grime-inflected vibes, pushing 12 covers and one original until they nearly unravel at the seams.

More so than the Detroit Cobras or the Now Time Delegation, The Dirtbombs make the sound of urban decay fresh again. It is the sound that once electrified soul and R&B, now re-amplified and re-energized by the exhaust-sucking school of Detroit rock. Some have criticized Collins as a copycat. But here, on Ultraglide, he's another kind of cat: a baaaaaaad cat. (SDS)

NEU!: NEU!, NEU! 2, NEU! '75
(Astralwerks)
Krautrock--das schmeckt, na?

Thirty years ago, two members of Kraftwerk, Germany's pioneering Krautrockers, left to record on their own. Calling themselves Neu!, the duo quickly broke ground, stretching distorted electric guitar into an endless four-on-the-floor groove. (Imagine if Sonic Youth recorded the soundtrack to a long drive down the Autobahn.) Unavailable outside Germany until now and several musical generations ex post facto, Astralwerks' remastered three-disc collection inspires the kind of uneasy epiphany that accompanies overdue discovery: This stuff is great, but what the hell took so long?

Luckily, the members of Neu! sound as if they could have recorded last week. Embracing experiment, their style moves effortlessly from meditative monotony to discordant squeals of feedback. But Neu! is at its best straddling the tightrope between rock's head-bobbing rhythm and techno's absorbing monotony, as in "Hallo Gallo," the 10-minute first track from their eponymous debut. It's a rare opportunity to lose yourself in endless rhythm without feeling like someone's mailing the music in from a computer console. No wonder Neu!, despite its distribution problems, influenced the likes of Radiohead, Bowie, Blur, the Sex Pistols and Stereolab. Those sorts, of course, could fly to Germany for a little record shopping. Luckily, the rest of us no longer have to. (BL)


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