Friday, September 16, 2005

Defunkt-y Friday

Last Friday London Lee over at Number One Songs In Heaven posted Defunkt's Make Them Dance. As you can read in his brief bio, they were a NYC jazz funk band formed in the late '70s by Joe Bowie. I know, as soon as you see those words "jazz funk" you think Level 42, or Shakatak, or something equally bland and soulless and you're ready to surf away to something hipper. Hang on. Defunkt were part of the famed "No Wave" set of bands that exploded out of New York - bands that combined the frantic, scratchy edge of punk with art rock and dance beats and funk. They are a funk band in the tradition of James Brown - the tightest of rhythm sections, lots of skronking horns, and lyrics that reflected the wild scene they were a part of. There's also a boatload of great post punk guitar all over their songs. All in all, a very unique band with a sound of their own. Critics loved 'em, but the people weren't buying. They made a couple of albums, split and then reformed again in the mid '80s. They are still in business today. Anyway, Rykodisc/Hannibal has done everyone a huge favor and reissued their first two albums, Defunkt and Themonuclear Sweat (which features the guitar playing of Vernon Reid, later of Living Color), as a 2 disc set. While the second album is good, the first one is great - a classic. It's punchy and hard and edgy, all the while maintaining one mutha-wumping-hell of a groove. In The Good Times hijacks the bass line from the Chic classic Good Times, then drags it kicking and screaming from the coke snorting disco clubs uptown to the back-alley smack junkie shooting up in an empty building doorway. It's fierce. The album has also been expanded with a few live tracks and, in the words of London Lee (this one is for you), the rare 12" of Razor's Edge. Its another hard ass track, a midtempo jam that features seriously soulful vocals and some intense, blazing guitar - both solos and rhythm. It is as lyrically hard as In The Good Times too, and predates gangsta rap's tales of hard times in the hood. I cannot recommend this set highly enough - it's a must have for fans of jazz, funk and rock.

No comments: