The Defects - Belfast, Empire Music Hall -15th January 2016 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby   
Saturday, 23 January 2016 04:00

Guilt is a terrible thing. A sin which can only be cleansed by confession and restitution. It is a sin of which I am guilty. So, please dear Über readers, hear my confession as I prepare to make amends for my sin: in the 38 or so years that The Defects have been flying the flag for Belfast punk high and proud, I have never seen them live. Not once. But, it is a situation which I sought to rectify as soon as possible into this new gigging year as myself and my beautiful missus headed out into the cold January air and headed for the historic Empire Music Hall, where the band were officially launching their latest album, ’45 Minutes’ out into the big, bad world.


Shock Treatment 21Openers Shock Treatment 21 were one of two bands on the bill I actually had seen before. They have a Stranglers-esque vibe, with a tight pop rock melodic sensibility infused with ska rhythms. The highlight of their set is the poignant yet hurtful ‘Beautiful Fool, dedicated to those whom affable frontman Davy Treatment refers as “the victims of the punk wars”, and especially legendary local producer Shaun ‘Mudd’ Wallace (who passed away on the same day as Lemmy) and David Bowie. They even throw in a touch of dark scat street rap on ‘Belfast Telegraph’, with its punchy piano and rolling guitar riff. The veterans serve up a delicious opening course for this feast of punk.


Next up are the young pups on the bill, No Matter (the other band whom I had seen before). They deliver raw, energetic pop punk in the vein of a nascent Green Day with an anarchy pill rammed up their arses. The quartet make good use of three-part vocal harmonies over their tight rhythms and melodies. Their only problem is that they are a wee bit too earnest in their attempt to re-imagine the American version of a genre which spewed from the gutters of Norn Iron long before they were even an evil glint in their fathers’ eyes. Nevertheless, they get a great crowd reaction, attracting the first dancers of the evening during the latter part of their set.


The veterans take to the stage once again, with Stop! Stop! Start Again with their out and outed (sic) glunk. Despite his bald head and middle-age beer belly, Paul Rowan is a classic glam rock frontman in punk clothing. With a sound characterised by short, sharp staccato riffs, the band are not afraid to address issues such as gender realignment, on ‘Plastic Fantastic’, and LGBT matters in general: and they do so in the true “don’t give a fuck” spirit of punk, complete with ironic, single entendre lyrics such as “Saturday night and I’ll be banging on your back door”! Finishing with the ultimate question, ‘Do You Believe In Life After Punk?’ it’s an entertaining and thought-provoking set.


The Defects 2The Defects’ particular brand of punk is ripped straight from the dark streets of Belfast in its darkest yet most enlightened days, as is evinced right from the off with opener ‘Hill Street’, an homage to the cobbled back street which was once home to the legendary Harp Bar (now a government office building), the dingy little venue which was the spiritual and physical him of the gestating punk movement in this part of the Überverse. It’s raw, it’s naked (well, at their ages, the boys keep their shirts on), and it’s pure and honest. The quartet acknowledge their pedigree – “this one must be from 40 years ago” jokes Buck at the start of ‘Guilty Conscience’ – but remain relevant in the issues they address today, with ‘Rock N Roll Is Dead Tonight’ from the new album condemning the soulless atmosphere of big arenas and the band’s “fuck not” attitude to the song’s ironic title.


‘Authority’ is old school Belfast-style punk by the guys who put it out there in the first place, and have kept it there ever since, while the band also pay tribute to fallen idols, rededicating ‘Revelator’ to Lemmy (the song is actually about Joe Strummer). Up front, Buck for one is still a lean and mean punk rockin’ machine, evoking the spirit of the late 70s and early 80s in a timelessly easy manner, while the band’s experienced professionalism is very much to the fore.


So, it may have taken me much longer that it really should to witness one of the few still active progenitors of the Belfast punk scene live and in the flesh, but I now have a clear conscience and can proudly say “been there, done that…” – although I didn’t buy the T shirt (sic)! Hopefully, I’ll be able to relive this particular experience again soon…


Photographs by The Dark Queen.


’45 Minutes’ is out now on Punkerama Records: