Tuesday, 16 February 2016

De-Defunkt, Yeah

A world devoid of Funk demands that Defunkt records be played, doesn't it? I blew the dust off their second album, Thermonuclear Sweat (title!) on Saturday morning, only to become confused as to where I should slot it back when the session was over, having forgotten where it was, thinking 'God, I must be getting old' - but one of the benefits of being my age is that I was able to see Defunkt in their prime - that is some consolation.

I keep my diminished vinyl collection according to genre, so where do Defunkt belong? With the Jazz or the Funk? As you may know, they combine both, but I lack a Jazz-Funk section, which is why Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi band sit in with Coltrane and co. And it doesn't matter, but I aired my problem on Facebook and was rightly chastised by an old friend for only having one Defunkt LP. What happened to their debut? It went, as have many other babies, when I last chucked out some bath water. Shame on me.

So as soon as I had time I made a point of listening to Defunkt on YouTube - what an album...how the horns swing and the complexity of criss-cross rhythms akin to Ornette's Prime Time harmolodics on Funk steroids. It wasn't just the mutant No Wave grooves that made Defunkt special but also the lyrics, mostly written in the early days by Janos Gat of the Squat Theatre group, which had its own very hip NY club where Television, James Chance, John Lurie and Sun Ra played. Strangling Me With Your Love? Heavy. 'You made love to a photocopy/ And left the room in perfect order'. More than just describe a claustrophobic situation, the song suggests an 'alien/mechanised' encounter. Even the once joyous urge to 'git down' as suggested by a million Funk bands of previous years is flipped into a nightmare on Thermonuclear Sweat, the 'get down, get up, get up' sounding more like the motions of post-nuclear zombies - 'your face is already wet, with green thermonuclear sweat'. So it should be because few played it as hard, fast, twisted, weird, cynical and sharp as Defunkt at their best.

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