April / May 1981

Note: For this and other "doing-it-for-money" reviews, db used the pseudonym 'Spottswood Erving,' referencing basketball legend Julius "Dr. J" Erving as well as American civil rights attorney and federal judge, Spottswood William Robinson III, appointed by President Johnson in 1966 to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the first African American so appointed.

Hannibal 1301

by Spottswood Erving

These days, serious jazz cats who decide to play dance music are—take themselves to be—as rebellious and avant-garde as the ones who decided not to in the 1940s. Great: reversals and cycles are always provocative. But how Defunkt got slapped with the “punk jazz” label is beyond me. Ain’t no punk in Defunkt, though songs like “Thermonuclear Sweat” and “Strangling Me With Your Love”—the latter of which contains the lines, “You look at me as if you had no eyes / but when you touch me I have no skin”—strike decidedly New Wavey postures. And “jazz” is hardly what I’d call it: we have here eight tracks of standard funk, peppered (thankfully but not sufficiently) with short solos.

So the question is: how’s de funk? Mediocre unfortunately, something like a sped-up fusion of mid-’70s Chicago with The Ohio Players. Mundane (sooohippp!) lyrics, Joe Bowie’s ever-present and one-dimensional singing, tired P-Funk synth/guitar vamps, Chic bass lines, formula handclaps and chants of “Make Them Dance” and “Party Hearty” undermine Defunkt’s stab at an open marriage of jazz, funk and punk. All ‘n’ all, a major disappointment.