Mike Campbell & the Dirty Knobs – External Combustion

Mike Campbell & the Dirty Knobs - External Combustion



4.1/5 Pros

  • Nice range of songs
  • Very good instrumental skills Cons

  • Some songs feel close to former Tom Petty tracks

With being part of the legendary Heartbreakers, Mike Campbell wrote music history alongside Tom Petty. Doing solo music with his side band The Dirty Knobs, Campbell already releases his second studio album after that era, External Combustion. It has been released on 4th March 2022.


Mike Campbell & the Dirty Knobs – About The Artist

Mike Campbell was born on 1st February 1950 in Panama City, Florida, USA. Even though he produced a couple of albums and wrote songs for other artists, he is mainly knows as guitarist of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Campbell has been a member of this band from its very beginning in 1976 until Tom Petty’s death on 2nd October 2017. Some three years thereafter, in January 2020, he released his first album with his new side band, the Dirty Knobs. In this combo, Campbell acted as the lead singer as well as guitarist. He is recording and performing alongside Jason Sinay (guitar), Lance Morrison (bass) and Matt Laug (drums). Especially Matt Laug is rather famous, he has been drummer for Slash’s Snakepit, Alice Cooper or Alanis Morissette before.


Mike Campbell & the Dirty Knobs – External Combustion – Track by Track

The eleven track album lasts 44 minutes.

1. Wicked Mind

The opener of Mike Campbell’s second solo is album is having a nice rock sound with a good Americana touch. There is definitely some spirit of Tom Petty’s style in this song – however, Campbell and his band mates do the riffs harder than the music legend. Promising opener.

2. Brigitte Bardot

The second track is a straight rock’n’roll song with a galloping rhythm. Nice work on the guitars in a rather classic sound. Good music.

3. Cheap Talk

The third track is coming with a bit of a dark atmosphere. Again, the guitars are dominating the composition, the lyrics feel a bit too mousy to me. Good solo, but overall not much better than average to me.

4. External Combustion

Even though you overall feel a certain emancipation of Mike Campbell from his former musical history, there are songs like the title track. There is a lot of Heartbreakers feeling. The knobs of the guitars are a bit more dirty than in the more elegant Tom Petty times, maybe.

5. Dirty Job (feat. Ian Hunter)

For the next two songs, Campbell invited guest musicians to give the album some additional flavor. The first one is British Ian Hunter. Wow, the former Mott the Hoopie lead singer is already 81 years old. His raspy voice gives a cool new sound to the sound and makes the Dirty Knobs and their lead singer feel even more dirty. Thumbs up.

6. State Of Mind (feat. Margo Price)

Of course, I have been especially curious about this sixth song, in which the leading artist is working with female country singer Margo Price. And, indeed, there is a strong country and Americana feeling in these tunes. Really enjoy to listen to these 4:18 minutes.

7. Lightning Boogie

A bit of boogie and rockabilly touch in the seventh track. This section of the album is definitely my favorite, featuring straight, versatile fun tracks. And Lightning Boogie with fast piano lines is just a song which makes you smile and move to the music.

8. Rat City

Nice rock’n’roll lines with a darker touch – this track makes the rock heart smile again. Powerful, full riffs illustrate the instrumental quality the band has, especially on the guitar side. Really good one.

9. In This Lifetime

After these powerful songs, In This Lifetime is contrasting with a rather thoughtful, quiet song. The song creates a beautiful atmosphere and is unique on the album. Definitely a good part of this set of tracks.

10. It Is Written

The vibe of It Is Written reminds me a bit of Brigitte Bardot, but the song has a stronger country music heart. The song could have a more self-confidence and be more present – it is actually a really good one.

11. Electric Gypsy

There have been two single releases so far – and I would say that both are among the closest songs on the album compared to previous Tom Petty recordings. This one could have made it in the exact arrangement to many Heartbreakers’ albums. A nice nostalgic feeling, but I would have went for more independent sounds.


Mike Campbell & the Dirty Knobs – External Combustion – Spotify

Here is the album on Spotify:


Mike Campbell & the Dirty Knobs – External Combustion – My View

No doubt, External Combustion is a good rock album. There are nice different sounds and references to quite a range of genres. Sometimes, I would love to feel it less like a Petty one, though.


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