Right now, wistful songsters M. Ward, Yim Yames, Mike Mogis and Conor Oberst’s joint project, Monsters of Folk, dominates the field of indie super-groups. Their songs are jangly and whimsical, delivered by equally jangly and fanciful folk with a love for beards and acoustic guitars. Lying opposite Monsters of Folk on the supergroup spectrum is the Almighty Defenders, Vice’s new supergroup featuring Black Lips, The King Khan and BBQ show– heavy on the monstrosities, light on the folk. To preface: After Black Lips disastrous tour of India last January (they angered quite a few with their notorious onstage behavior), they met up with fellow garage-punks, The King Khan and buddy, Mark “BBQ” Sultan to record half an hour’s worth of “post-modern-gospel-rock”. Well, of course.
Though the gospel label may off put those expecting a somewhat greasier product from the reigning kings of garage sleaze, the Defenders are setting out as prophets of funk more than anything – holy hardly describes the Defenders’ screeched preaching. Instead, they sound almost exactly how one would think a Black Lips and The King Khan and BBQ Show lovechild would sound.
They took Black Lips’ crunchy guitars, inhuman wailing and frat-boy sense of humor, then threw in a bit of the King Khan and BBQ Show’s soulful swagger, plus both bands’ love of shoddy production, to create a couple anti-gospel, gospel tributes.
Recorded in the space of a week in Berlin, the Almighty Defenders’ self-titled debut sounds pretty much like a couple of drunken best buddies having fun, recording jam sessions from their basement. Opening track “All my Loving” is a grooving tribute to the hand clapping, “Amen” shouting southern churches, quickly offset by a strange invocation of the Holy Ghost on “The Ghost with the Most”. They kick out the church organs on their cover of the Mighty Hannibal’s “I’m Coming Home” and BBQ’s own impressive pipes on “Cone of Light”. There are also moments like “30 Second Air Blast” and “Death Cult Soup and Salad”, which are largely composed of squeals, grunts and Three Stooges impressions.
The Defenders’ biggest problem, though, is production. Usually, the sloppy recording of Black Lips and the King Khan and BBQ Show songs adds a nice homespun touch, but as the Defenders, they lose the balance between rough around the edges and plain incomprehensible. The vocals barely reach the mic, the guitars are fuzzed beyond recognition and the drums sound like they’re hit with rain sticks.
The Almighty Defenders are a fun listen. They make some good tracks, have a cute concept, but all in all, these prophets just fail to inspire faith.