Your man shot a bottle rocket out of his butt crack on the Fourth of July last year and it was cool at the time. But it's a new year and you need to escalate your game, my pals. This year it's about setting your hair on fire while hitting mortar shells with an aluminum bat, and tackling newspaper stands shirtless after drinking 27 domestic American beers (no craft beers are allowed on the Fourth either). You can do it.
And while we know you'll be BBQing your food and DDTing your drinks, we also know you'll be needing a new soundtrack to the Fourth, because the typical standards are played out (Sousa is washed). So put on any or all of these records to give you the power of poor decisionmaking necessary to burn this Independence Day into the history books.
Ultraglide in Black functions as a cheat sheet for what music to buy right now. The Dirtbombs' set of covers — save for "Your Love Belongs Under a Rock" — dips into the catalogs of the O'Jays, Barry White, Curtis Mayfield and a whole lot more essential stuff. It’s basically a record store shopping list.
But more than that, it’s an absolutely scorching blast of howling garage rock, punk and soul. In front of the monster-truck force of two drummers and two bass players, former Gories frontman Mick Collins sings his head off on songs like “Livin’ for the City,” a Stevie Wonder staple, here shredded through fuzzy distortion. It all comes together perfectly on “Ode to a Black Man,” the Dirtbombs’ faithful take on a Phil Lynott gem.
Speaking of Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy is practically mandatory for the cookout. Jailbreak seems like the obvious choice, since Vagabonds of the Western World would probably serve just as well as a soundtrack for throwing gas on the fire. But “The Boys are Back in Town” is still a perfect song and, legend has it, if it doesn’t receive at least a billion plays on the Fourth of July, the mayor cancels the fireworks display.
Of course, Jailbreak is a veritable diamond mine of exquisite rock ’n’ roll songs like “Running Back,” “Fight or Fall” and “Warriors.” And, in case you run out of matches, it’s likely that the guitar solos from “Cowboy Song” will light your firecrackers.
It’s going to be clear to you and everyone else at the party that the Me First and the Gimme Gimmes discography could more than suffice for a day full of blowing up stuff. But in case you’re looking for some more recent bratty punk and some original songs, Pup’s newest album, 2016’s The Dream is Over, can freshen up your punk rock playlist.
The Toronto four-piece makes it look effortless as they turn songs about wanting to kill your buddies into shout-along anthems. The album title comes from a phrase the lead singer Stefan Babcock’s doctor used after Babcock actually shredded his vocal cords. So on a holiday when accidentally killing your friends is a real possibility and screaming is a must if you want to be heard, this record seems appropriate.
Holy moly this is a party record. Junior Senior, the Danish duo of Jesper "Junior" Mortensen and Jeppe "Senior" Laursen, spazzed out so hard on their debut, D-D-Don’t Don’t Stop the Beat. Get ready for guitar shredding, hip-hop beats, electro trash, hand claps and repeated demands to “shake your coconut until that nut comes out.”
“Rhythm Bandits,” “Chicks and Dicks” and “Move Your Feet” are all relentlessly designed to help you shake out the sillies. It’s pointless trying to find a better album to play while you jump kick your grill for no good reason.
Ludacris is patronizing us. The Atlanta rapper named his fourth album Chicken-n-Beer and left us to sort out how obvious it seems to play it at a barbecue. But when you’re standing there, charbroiling wings while “Stand Up” plays, it won’t matter because you’ll feel too good to care.
As Ludacris says on “Hip-Hop Quotables”: “Every album that I drop has more than 10 bangers.” Chicken-n-Beer has 17 tracks and four of them are skits so that brag seems like it’s cutting it close but, believe it. “Diamond in the Back,” “Splash Waterfalls,” “P-Poppin’” and “Blow it Out” pretty much hit that quota before the back half of the album even kicks in.
Even Lil Jon thinks Dave Chappelle ruined his life and turned him into a punch line. But on Kings of Crunk, out in front of the East Side Boyz, Lil Jon was not joking around because he was too busy getting really fucking psyched, just like you will be at your BBQ.
A murderers row of guests including Bun B, Jadakiss, E-40, and Devin the Dude handle the more complex verses while Lil Jon leads chants like “I Don’t Give a Fuck” and “Keep Yo Chullin Out the Streets.” This album is so loaded with unbelievable hype music that Lil Jon doesn’t even drop his iconic crunk stripper anthem “Get Low” until almost the end. By that point, you’ll need to use caution with the lighter because you’ll no longer be able to see straight.
Kirk Hammett, Metallica’s lead guitarist who co-founded Exodus, said the name Bonded by Blood came after a night of pounding vodka in a car lead to a crude blood oath with lead singer Paul Baloff and the rest of the band. With any luck, you’ll have a story to tell that’s half as cool as that after this Independence Day as long as you make time to crank Exodus’s thrash metal masterpiece.
Just attempt to listen to “A Lesson in Violence” and “Metal Command” and not blow up your own mailbox with an M-80. It’s not possible.
Not all party music needs to crank the BPMs until your eyes bug out. Some of it works to make the party burn longer, not necessarily the brighter. That’s where No Fences by Garth Brooks fits in. Think of the platinum cowboy’s sophomore album less like an adrenaline shot through the chest plate and more like a big ol’ heaping plate of spaghetti. You know, something to soak up all that beer.
“Two of a Kind Workin’ on a Full House” and “The Thunder Rolls” are so good you almost forget that “Friends in Low Places” — a layered and nuanced song about getting blackout drunk — is still on its way. It’s summer so lots of country music will be needed but No Fences is a unifying force, necessary for strengthening bonds with friends and family so they don’t humiliate you after you pass out next to the cooler.
It’s not necessary to know the distinguishing characteristics of New Orleans funk to realize that the Meters are a god-level precise and fluid band. There’s a reason the band’s debut, The Meters, features an assortment of measurement tools. You may need the focus to fire off bottle rockets without setting your trees on fire and this album will get you locked in enough to do so.
Art Neville, George Porter Jr., Leo Nocentelli and Zigaboo Modeliste aren’t names that jump out like James Brown and George Clinton when you think about funk but songs like “Cissy Strut” and “Ease Back” are just as elastic and colorful as anything those giants of the genre ever made.
OK, hear me out on this. Yeah, there are way better dance albums that would work for a party and most of them would require a lot less explaining to your guests. But none of those albums have “Things That Make You Go Hmmm…” on them.
The co-foremen of this music factory are David Cole and Robert Clivillés and they match most of their bubbly R&B techno beats with Zelma Davis lip syncing over various singers belting out hooks and Freedom Williams — secretly your favorite rugged MC — throwing out bars. Gonna Make You Sweat, title track included, is a supremely stupid relic from the dawn of the ’90s but it’s what you need right now to blow out this Fourth of July.
Ben Munson is a writer and editor based in Madison, Wisconsin. He awaits the day he can pass his Beatnuts albums down to his daughter.
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