Released in 1982, ‘Defective Breakdown’ is an album that epitomises the sound of what we now call UK82, or early 80’s British punk.
Formed in Belfast in 1978, The Defects outshone their contemporaries like The Outcasts and Rudi by forging their tough, yet melodic sound (influenced by The Ruts and Killing Joke) in the Belfast punk hotspots Harp Bar and The Pound.
They toured England extensively with the Anti Nowhere League on the infamous ‘So What’ tour (the bill also included Chron Gen and Chelsea) as well as supporting anarcho legends Poison Girls in the Anarchy Centre in Belfast – a precursor to Giro’s/The Warzone Centre.
From the opening song, ‘Dance’, the listener is subjected to a harsh, metallic take on punk rock. It’s hummable enough for the 77 crowd, but hard enough for Exploited/GBH fans. Lyrically, it’s a snapshot of punks sniffing glue during a punk show in The Pound.
’20th Century’ features a nifty bassline, while warning listeners of the dog eat dog culture. Or is it about The Troubles?
This trait is what keeps The Defects ahead of the likes of Stiff Little Fingers, whose manager approved lyrics seemed to be profound, and yet said nothing. The Defects let you make your own mind up without spelling it out for you.
‘Survival’ is a moody number, with sublime guitar work that Geordie Walker would be proud of. The added chugging for the chorus has the same effect as being knocked out by Prince Naseem. ‘Deprived’ is a snipe at the bands who refused to play Belfast at that time. The echoey vocals compliment the music perfectly. If only Beastmilk could write songs like this.
Instrumental ‘Conscription’ has a power to it that would level most punk bands, and it segueways beautifully into ‘Casualty.’ A rant about a two faced acquaintance, it features some tasty licks and moody chord changes.
The one-two punch of ‘Metal Walls’ and ‘Thoughts’ close the album in spectacular fashion. A high octane number, ‘Metal Walls’ encourages the listener to feel empowered even though the chorus is “You’ll never escape”, while ‘Thoughts’ is a moody number reflecting on changing relationships.
The only thing that lets the album down is the non inclusion of ‘Brutality’, their hymn to the RUC’s treatment of punks. A b-side recording (presumably from the same sessions as ‘Defective Breakdown’) would have slotted in nicely.
Interestingly, the band have stated a few times over the years that they’re not fans of the production of ‘Defective Breakdown.’
Drummer Glenn Kingsmore has said “Defective Breakdown…personally I was and am disappointed with it. Don’t get me wrong, I like the songs…but it never captured the true sound of the band. In a strange way, The Defects were a late first wave punk band caught up in the second wave…”
Obviously, a band will view an album differently than their fan base (Cro Mags guitarist Parris Mayhew has pointed out that he does not consider ‘The Age of Quarrel” to be a great album). And, in this case, it’s fair to say that the sound of it is what differentiates it from other albums of that period.
It’s the sound of a “…first wave punk band…” adapting to the speed and panache of UK82 punk, while still holding onto their initial influences. The tension gives the album a more post punk and metallic sheen. It’s unique, and still sounds brilliant today.
Rich Walker (Solstice, Sore Throat) regards it as the “…best HC Punk album ever from Ireland. Non stop raging metallic aggression…one of my all time favourites…”, while Americans The Casualties take their name from the song ‘Casualty.’
The Defects recently released a new album ‘Politicophobia’ and still tear up the stage live. But their set still features quite a few songs from this album, and quite rightly so.
– Christopher Owens ::: 09/11/14