BRUISED AND SATISFIED – The Defectors (Bad Afro)
“Bruised and Satisfied” is the title and you should be left that way after just a couple of spins. Denmark’s The Defectors deliver a devil’s number (that’d be 13) dose of fuzzed-up, Farfisa-fuelled fun that’ll spook young children and deter dance club divas.
Divided into mock horror and garage rock halves (or A and B sides in the vinyl format) it’s near the mark established by their US-only “Give In and Creep Out With” album (aka “Turn Me On” in Europe, with three different songs). In their finest moments, those albums swung like an outdoor toilet door in a force nine gale and I fully expect this one to merit similar airplay on the I-94 Bar sound system and maybe sneak onto a podcast.
The Defectors sound isn’t hard to grasp. There’s a strong organ line again running through almost every tune and vocalist Mort Harder’s raspy and guttural growl is still a strong feature. The rest of the band often wraps the sound in agreeable harmonies that stress the hooks. No faulting the engine room either – this is a trademark of bands on Bad Afro, it has to be said. If you’re a fan of the garage thing you’d have to be dead not to like it, or have your tastebuds in the region of your arsehole.
First to the horror songs and while the title sounds like a grinding threat, “Creepy Crawl” is a good-humoured garage rumble. “The Final Thrill” is spaghetti western-style moodiness and a personal fave. “Welcome All Sinners” is, as you may guess, a welcoming opening cut and the least-worthy inclusion. Female backing vocals kick “Dancing Ghouls” along. More shlock than shock, overall, and at times whacked out enough to give The Damned a run for their money.
The so-called garage songs employ straight-up vocals and strident rhythms to make their point. The label says “Excellent Music For Driving” and that says it all, really. “Fuck You Cause You’re Looking Good” is reprised, probably because it wasn’t on “Turn Me On”) and isn’t much of an advance on the original. Which is to mean it’s still good.
As music outside the major label world moves to self-sufficiency, The Defectors have built one helluva home studio if the sound on “Bruised and Satisfied” is any pointer. It’s as warm as toast and really full-sounding – the record’s self-produced so it’s a band that obviously knows how it wants to sound. - The Barman
GIVE IN AND CREEP OUT WITH…- The Detectors (No Fun Records)
If Eddie Munster made it into his teenage years and formed a band in Herman’s garage, they’d sound a lot like this.
There are slightly different versions of the same album by this Danish garage quintet. “Give In” is on Ann Arbor’s happening little label No Fun and “Turn Me On” comes to you courtesy of their home country’s enduring Bad Afro imprint.
“Turn Me On” landed in 2004 and to be brutally honest, left me lukewarm. There was the odd bit of sequencer mixing it with the usual elements – and there’s the rub. I couldn’t make it past “Sleepwalking", the shambling but ultimately raucous freak-out at the midpoint of “Turn Me On”, without condemning its garage-dub, electro-noises as the thinly-veiled manifestations of opiated house music posers in acid punk clothing. What a dolt.
Two years later and the US edition landed in the mailbox. It only then that the penny dropped. It and its European cousin are as good as anything else around in the crowded garage genre - and way better than most. Bear with me, I'll explain why...
There’s a certain place in the garage where all the right elements come together. If a band wears some borrowed clothing when it steps outside onto a stage, that's fine, but if they mean to rise above the ranks of imitators, they need to tart up the outfit and sashay to their own beat. Which is what The Defectors do. So roll out the red carpet.
This is Album Number Three for The Defectors and they have the essential bedrock in place – a lean and mean engine room that swings in all the right places, fuzz guitar and an appropriately snot-encrusted, demented delivery from vocalist Mort Harder. But it’s Martin Bee’s all-pervading but somehow understated organ playing that’s at the epicentre of this drunken, horror-themed frat party.
Some party: "Fuck You Cause You're Lookin' Good" is stripped-back Cramps-a-rama that invokes sex (as you might guess) and also bumps and grinds in the right places. "The Final Thrill" is a scene from a sinister Spaghetti Western and is cooler than a can of Tecate in a Mexican bar in 110 degree heat. "The Zoom-Out" marries a repetitive breaks-style organ line to incessant fuzz guitar figures (veering close to what they used to term "dancefloor cross-over hit") but its pedigree is more Munsters than Moroder. Those golden organ tones win a cigar on "Dancing Ghouls", where the plastic but fun pop of the B-52s meets The Damned. "Give In..." and "Turn Me On" both feature the swinging "Pretty Baby" as well as a bona fide pop winner in "It's Gonna Take Some Time", which really is a Richard and the Young Lions song in Dutch clogs.
The difference between both albums is three songs but buy either without fear. The fact that The Defectors now have a label in the US as well as Europe (and Off the Hip are distributing Bad Afro in Australia) means you don't have an excuse not to chase down either (or both). By the way, the review of the original album is below. - The Barman
TURN ME ON The Defectors (Bad Afro)
The label name might be a celebration of a time when, for some, every day was a bad hair day, but theres not many duds that come out on this label. The Defectors dont spoil that record but there are a couple of reservations.
This is the fourth long-player for this Danish five-piece. If you dont like Farfisa-and-fuzz-propelled Nuggets throwbacks, stop reading now. For the rest of you, lets be realistic: Not much, if anything, will ever improve on the naïve, stars-in-their-eyes original spirit of 60s punk. It was a different time and a different place. But some bands can evoke the spirit by using the essential elements and adding their own character. It also helps if they have good songs. Nice feat if you can pull it off, but many dont and end up only as names on the Bomp mailing list.
The Defectors label their disc driving music and thats a fair call for most of these 11 tunes. Theyre best played on a shitty car stereo while in motion. They dont demand lots of concentration (unless, of course, you want to play Spot the Influence) so that's a plus in our books, most of the time.
Speaking of influences, Its Gonna Take Some Time could have been on the first album from Swedens Strollers (and thats a considerable wrap). Lorenzo Woodrose from the very cool labelmates Baby Woodrose provides backing vocals and its a stand-out song. To the degree that Little Steve recently declared it his tune of the week on his America-wide syndicated radio program. So far, so good. Pretty Baby is a groovy piece of strut. No frills and no argument that its worthy and righteous.
But Sleepwalking shows the first signs of experimentation for the hell of it, seemingly, with a mechanical rhythm track and megaphonic vocals that grate mildly before climbing back into the rock zone. And the closing epic (5min58sec) The Zoom Out is a place where dub meets garage rock and its not pretty either. Best avoided.
I dont want to be too harsh because after three albums (none of which Ive heard), its probably true that The Defectors wanted to break the mould and try a few different things. The Defectors are honest enough to describe themselves as onetime 60s purists. I just dont think the experimental tracks go anywhere. Which is to say the nine others are party-starters.
Of them, Its You has the sort of bite that Sydneys late, great Dr Stone used to impart with its killer beat (Jonas Jorgensen is a great timekeeper with minimal embellishments). Vocalist Mort Harder is as snotty as anyone and the guitarist plays a Phantom Teardrop. Nuff said.
Anyway, two experiments that miss the mark and a haul of pretty good garage snot isn't a bad afternoon's listening. The Barman
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