One drunk’s a pitiful sight, two drunks are a party. Four years ago, when Seattle’s Kirk Dubb served a tall, cold glass of “Booze & Madness,” he proposed his toasts mostly by his lonesome. Now it turns out the “boozehound from Puget Sound” is a social drinker after all, sharing the bill with boozing companion Mister Holmes on their collaboration project “Thirsty.” 47 minutes of baked beats and rhymes make it evident that Kirk Dubb & Mister Holmes are proud to be a one-trick pony. Both may cite outcast poet and drinker extraordinaire Charles Bukowski as an influence, but their plastered poetry rarely delves deeper than “You must drink or you’ll turn to dust.” They trade fortune cookie-sized philosophies, of which 90% specifically concern drinking, whether it’s “Live a little, drink a lot” (Holmes) or “Here is your lesson: booze is the answer for any question” (Dubb). The appropriately titled “Thirsty” is the equivalent of a carefree – if occasionally careless – night of bar-hopping. They may claim to be “drunk on arrival,” but Kirk Dubb & Mister Holmes are more Homer Simpson than Barney Gumble. They’re after-hours drinkers, not full-time drunkards.
Maybe that’s why their album is devoid of the self-indulgent pity of the typical talkative drunk. More boastful (“Like Lance Armstrong I’m the one to beat / on the Tour de Dives I’m undefeated”) than philosophical (“I’m as good as you are, as bad as I am”), “Thirsty” may need a ’21 & Over’ disclaimer, but its vibe is that of a frat party or a club packed with fake ID’s. For inebriated introspection, try Atmosphere’s “Pour Me Another” or Mobb Deep and Q-Tip’s “Drink Away the Pain (Situations).” However, if you thirst for some high-proof pub hop, Dubb ‘n Holmes are your bartenders for the evening. Or as Holmes puts it quite charmingly: “Forget that backpack crap, this is six-pack rap.” Yet as fast as their blood alcohol level rises, the two somehow manage to stay mentally stable. Convinced that “work ain’t nothin’ but a four letter word,” they explain their way of life on the hook to “Workin’ Stiff”:
“You can live to work, if that works for you
We work to live, got better things to do
One thing’s true, when the day is through
a job’s not what I am, it’s just what I do”
Nevertheless, Kirk Dubb & Mister Holmes insist on their “blue collar status.” Especially the former, quipping, “I hang in saloons, I don’t hang in salons.”
Like Sir Mix-A-Lot said, “Seattle Ain’t Bullshittin’,” and it’s safe to assume that he’d be proud of Kirk Dubb & Mister Holmes’ “rap shit, this take-no-crap shit, Seattle-on-the-map shit.” It would probably take a native to explain how exactly “Thirsty” represents Sea-Town, but you do get the feeling that there’s definitely a connection. Maybe it’s because Dubb and Holmes seem like real people who just happen to be REALLYthirsty, maybe it’s the fact that the only track that isn’t primarily about getting lit, “Great Northwest,” is a tour guide to the region’s many sights and sounds, from Seattle’s Underground Tour to off-shore whale-watching. If it wasn’t for the “We drink Rainier beer straight out the can” endorsement, this would be a great jingle for the local tourist office. “Great Northwest” also happens to be one of the musical highlights of “Thirsty.” Producer Dynomite D hooks up a rock-infused track that is subject to constant change but retains its distinct profile.
Throughout, the music behind Kirk Dubb & Mister Holmes is fully serviceable. Mr. Supreme leads the pack with the opener “Get It,” a funky, fully orchestrated drive down electric avenue. Art Hodge’s “Who’s in the Pub?” tears a page from the book of blues rock, “Listen Up” inserts a familiar breakbeat bassline into layered percussion, while “Workin’ Stiff” with its sharp stabs is a throwback to mid-’80s hip-hop when rock ‘n roll and hip-hop first hooked up. In fact, with its subtle steering clear of stereotypes “Thirsty” may be one of the most natural rap/rock fusions in the past years, combining memorable basslines, manipulated guitars, sampled breaks, programmed drums and a dash of live instrumentation. Dynomite D handles the majority of the production expertedly, from the rugged “Always Buzzin'” to the creeping “Top Fuel,” which laces Masta Ace’s “Born to Roll” with additional potent effects. Sometimes the hip-hop flavor is stronger, such as on “Great Northwest” and “Doin’,” which both sound like a combination of early ’90s Beastie Boys and House of Pain. Always intent on keeping you interested, Dynomite D waits a full three minutes before “Why Hangover?” shifts into high gear – but what a ride it turns into… The epic “Never Gonna Die” is set up to introduce the more insightful side of Kirk Dubb & Mister Holmes, but because they refuse the offer, it reveals their lyrical limitations a bit too sharply, turning their drunken splendor into stupor for good.
As mentioned earlier, though, “Thirsty” works because it has no other intent than to let the good times roll. Mid-way through the album it’s hardly a surprise to hear that there’s “More Where That Came From.” So there’s probably gonna be a point when you’ll want to close the window when these songbirds start to serenade you again. Essentially, this album feels a little bit like the _Futurama_ episode with the beheaded Beastie Boys, only that “Thirsty” primarily preserves the Beasties of “Brass Monkey.” But backed by original, party-starting production, Kirk Dubb & Mister Holmes make a compelling argument that there’s “a little more bounce with the 40 ounce.”