Thursday, February 14, 2008

And I Feel Fine: Singing about the Apocalypse and the new Dirtbombs album.

You wake up every day, telling yourself the same reassuring bullshit: you're better than your boss, better than the president, better than that bitch who dumped you. You drive your car to work and you hate the other drivers, you hate the price of gas and you hate having to straighten your tie, put one foot in front of the other and be cordial to other people for the sake of a steady paycheck.

And every news headline is a re-worded version of: things are getting worse/people are getting angrier.

You find that one all-too-brief hour of bliss you've alotted yourself over the weekend, to slip your head between the headphones and what you get is an entire library's worth of catchy-doom-sermons and pandora's pop, from grandiose 60's garage to San Fran psychedelia to 80's detritus, from Bob Dylan's "Hard Rain" to the Weirdos "We Got The Neutron Bomb" to R.E.M.'s "It's The End of the World...etc" - we're inundated by a steady historical build-up of songs sermonizing the Apocalypse.

And the freaky thing I find myself thinking as I listen to the Dirtbombs' latest, "We Have You Surrounded," - is when's this thing going down? Let's start the fireworks, where's my brimstone?

This is a fine chunk of enticing mayhem, probably they're most potent front-to-back; retaining the rough-hewn quasi-pop of Dangerous Magical Noise ("Wreck My Flow"), the tight soul/funk inflected vigor of Ultraglide in Black ("Indivisible, Ever Lovin' Man") and the fuck-all noise of their b-sides collection ("Race to the Bottom.")

The Dirtbombs sound has never second-guessed itself; busted bass drums and broken strings are part of the plan, every bleat, blow and buzz is utilized to its fullest.

You get this kind of wings-are-falling-off-but-we're-jumping-to-lightspeed-anyway-and-smash-the-head-of-any-non-believer-who-clutters-our-path-because-we-may-swerve-the-wheel-but-we're-sure-as-fuck-not-hittin-the-breaks and I, hell anyone, we'll follow you to the ends of the Earth.

...or maybe to the end of the Earth? As this album, in almost every song, is ripe, lyrically, with exhortations of total anihiliaton.



"Time is running out...I have to say this, before it's too late..." sings Mick Collins in Ever Lovin Man. He then refers to the invevitable falling of an Empire and that the slipstream of destruction and darkness that surrounds us may be looming, but all he wants to be is your ever-lovin'-man.

Now, we can chock this up to the smoky, sweat-sheets classic funk influences of 'I just wanna please you, baby' that play onto the Dirtbomb's style.

But then in "Indivisible," (which immediately conjures the pledge of allegiance), he sings "You don't live in a vaccum, anymore than I do," (perhaps an indictment of Bush's reckless geopolitical bumbling) and that "the world's invisible..."

Sherlock Holmes is a heartbreaking singer/songwriter-esque ballad asking why the other man and not me? With steady rolling percussion (Ben Blackwell / Patrick Pantano) under Mick's minimalist buzz-strum and his vocals reaching beautiful heights. (But back to apocalypse...)

"Wreck My Flow," which others have admitted reminds them of Joel's "Fire," has a solid groove bassline from Troy Gregory and Ko Melina, with lyrics like "21st century, flame out history" leading into a high synth wail.

The Alan Moore penned-tune "Leopardman at C&A" is a strong centerpiece with relentless beats under an Are-You-Experienced-esque slow-starting engine rev guitar scrape, with lyrics: "the zoo age beings, we'll hunt down television sets and kill them for their skin," and squeezing cell phone juice on our barcode-tattooed-faces and sacrificing big fluorescent corporate symbols.

Then we're warned about a "Fire in the Western World" and the pathos for the occidental culture; "If we don't stop using there will be nothing left, the odds of defiance are slowly being crushed to death."

"Pretty Princess Day" gets loose, driving and playful, but still warns of "the world falling to pieces around you..."

Paranoia settles in on "They Have Us Surrounded," drenched in fuzz-fucked guitars, ominous tones and thunderous drums...and then the 9-minute black-hole-noise-drone of "Race To The Bottom" is perhaps the letting loose the hounds of hell...the ending of the world... have the veil lifted for the soft, dreamy acoustic opening of the closer, and there's no twist ending to the translation of this French pop-ballad: "La Fin Du Monde."


So, with so many songs in rock history harbingering the end of this world, it brings me to ask more questions and draw shakey conclusions...

How much more use do we have for the artistic expression of armageddon, if none of it (seemingly so, anyway) has seeped into this evermore steadily roboticized species of inevitably self-destructive-by-design being.

Well, rock n roll, as a scrutinized creature in the temporary captivity of my headphones, has never been art, its just been noise, speaking to, feeding and releasing our own most primal inner-desires and motivations.

But, damned if it hasn't also been influential.

We may not act on everything John Lennon or Dylan sang, but it still registers with us, we still acknowledge the profoundness of the statements, it does get filed away in our minds and hearts.

It's the same with all this Apocalypse music; decades of protest music, punk music, all of this doom and angst and it's-all-coming-down-around-us etc...has set our minds into an expectant state. We want to see this shit go down. We're ready. We hate that we're still stuck here because we know it's coming. And we don't want to go to work another day. Where's the world-ending stuff I've been singing along to for my life's soundtrack, bring it on...

And thus, the opening track of this perfectly-crafted apocalypse-pop record may end up bringing the most prophetic chorus of the bunch: "You Got What You Wanted..."

That's the past-tense, too! It could only be a week away!

So grab all your records and hold on tight, take 'em to the other side with you - all these years we've been building up catalogs to make the ultimate oblivion mix tape.

See you there.

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