The Dirtbombs / King Khan & the Shrines / King Khan

Billiards at Nine Thirty

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In the grand tradition of The Beatles vs. the Four Seasons, Billiards at Nine Thirty features two seemingly disparate musical acts paired up on one album for your listening pleasure -- fractured soul noise geniuses the Dirtbombs and jacked-up R&B revivalists King Khan & His Shrines. If the Dirtbombs had been in the same musical form as they were on their epochal Ultraglide in Black album (in which they reworked a batch of soul classics to their own unique specifications), this would have been a near-perfect match, but such is not the case. Witches leader Troy Gregory was a recent addition to the Dirtbombs when these sessions were recorded, and his influence is very strong on the band's approach, aiming for a spacy, dirtified psychedelic ambience that's interesting but doesn't quite play to the band's sweaty strengths. "Born in a Haunted Barn" and "The House as a Giant Bong" sound like outtakes from the Witches' Let's Go to the No Go Zone, but without the eerie atmospherics that made that album so great -- and also without the potent drive of the Dirtbombs at their best. Meanwhile, on King Khan's side of the platter, what you've got are a bunch of punk rocker kids trying to make like a classic R&B show band, and hitting the target much closer than anyone would have a right to expect. Khan isn't a great singer, but he screams real good, and though his band (complete with organ and horn section) wavers back and forth between tight and shambolic, their energy never flags, and the sheer exuberance of their half of the album is hard to beat. The Dirtbombs sound a lot more adventurous and creative on Billiards at Nine Thirty, but King Khan's set is ultimately a lot more fun, and it succeeds better on its more limited terms, proving ambition is not always a substitute for results.

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