This joint is hard to describe, but I'll do my best. First off, Defunkt is a sweet band name, no? In 1978, trombonist/vocalist Joe Bowie (brother of jazz trumpeter Lester) was grooving on the DIY punk ethic in NYC, so he decided to apply that same feel to a jazz-funk (or funk/punk?) ensemble. As the liner notes state, the band "cut a swath through the downtown New York 'no-wave' scene of the early '80s, encompassing punks, art-jazz nuts, funk-fans, outsiders, noise freeks and leftover beatniks." So it's part free-jazz, part heavy funk, part R&B dance music. Let's just call it adventurous underground avant-garde music. The only downside is that Bowie doesn't have a great tone to either his voice or trombone. But that doesn't stop him from giving it the old college try and the other musicians groove hard enough that it isn't that much of a distraction. If you're in just that right mood, this stuff is fantastic. Much like punk music, the effort is so frenzied that a little goes a long way (to my ears, anyway). After 4 or 5 tracks, I've usually had enough so this set doesn't get many full-through listens.
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Neither album charted
Tracks: From the 1980 debut album, I'm liking Strangling Me With Your Love, Melvin's Tune, and Thermonuclear Sweat (which sounds like a James Brown song played too fast). Vernon Reid adds some tasty guitar work to many of the tracks on this album, recorded before he started up Living Colour. Track 3, In The Good Times, not only takes its name from the Chic hit, it shamelessly lifts Bernard Edward's seminal bass line without giving Edwards and Nile Rodgers any songwriting credits. The nerve!
The 1982 album, Thermonuclear Sweat, is a little smoother than the earlier album. My faves are I Tried To Live Alone, Avoid The Funk, and Believing In Love. There are two interesting covers here: the oddly-out-of-place jazz standard Blue Bossa and the Gamble & Huff classic For The Love Of Money. The former is better than the latter (even if the band doesn't have the chops to pull off straight-ahead jazz solos). For The Love Of Money comes off more as a deconstruction than cover. Even after multiple listens I can't decide whether or not I enjoy them, but I respect what they're trying to do. At least they properly credit the songwriters this time.
Both discs end with some live tracks from 1983, which are just okay and not as manic as you might expect. Sound quality is iffy and some tracks are inexplicably faded out at the end. Who fades out live tracks?
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None. I hadn't even heard of the band until I came across this 2 CD Rykodisc compilation in October 2005 on an impromptu visit to Waterloo Records in Austin.