The Defibulators – Debt’ll Get’em (Music Review)

Debt'll Get'em cover

The Defibulators – Debt’ll Get’em

Well, this is a disappointment. YouTube is filled with videos of New York City country band The Defibulators, and a lot of them are great. But I bought Debt’ll Get’em, their sophomore album, and wasn’t very impressed. Probably the easiest way to right this review is to list the reasons why the album doesn’t work as well as browsing YouTube.

1. That “New York City country” thing

I’m no purist (and I’m a northern city person myself), so I can accept a bunch of New Yorkers singing country. But to do it, they need to figure out how to define themselves. A lot of the traditional language of country bands won’t work for them. Sometimes The Defibulators have this figured out: “Everybody’s Got a Banjo” admits to the trendiness of roots music and defends it as fun for everyone. (“If you mean it when you sling it, then you ain’t no fool.”) I find “Working Class” to be more troublesome, though. It’s a story of a privileged middle-class kid who was too lazy to get a good job. It’s witty, and I’m sure a lot of their audience loves it, but to me it feels inappropriate next to the great working class anthems it feels modeled after.

“Hee-Haw in Heaven” is a complete misfire. It’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but it sounds like someone unfamiliar with country music trying to impress fans. There are also enough songs already about meeting country greats in heaven that this doesn’t sound clever or original. At times like this, it’s hard to forget any concerns about the band’s seriousness.

2. The energetic songs are lacking

Check out this live performance of “Go-Go Truck”. It’s a fun, wild song that gives Th’ Legendary Shack-Shakers a run for their money. Then listen to “Holy Roller” on Debt’ll Get’em. It’s styled like a religious revival and should be capable of matching “Go-Go Truck”. But the music is restrained and the back-up singers are minimized instead of let loose. It’s the sound of a studio band mimicking the hell-raising energy of another culture.

3. The quieter songs are easy to ignore

The band isn’t just about wild songs. They have plenty of sedate country crooners, and they aren’t necessarily bad. I certainly enjoyed the ones on YouTube. Here, I guess that I just don’t take them seriously coming from the singers of “Hee-Haw in Heaven”.

4. Not enough Erin Bru

The band has two vocalists: “Bug” Jennings and Erin Bru. Jennings is the wild frontman and is the soul of the band, but Bru’s smooth voice is a real gem. I’m not sure if she has the versatility to handle a band on her own, but her individual songs tend to be standouts. On YouTube, she seems to get almost have the time. On this album, she mainly sings duets and backup. She takes lead on the excellent “Pay for That Money”, the album’s one exception to the “boring slow song” rule. But that’s all.

Debt’ll Get’em has enough good moments to affirm that The Defibulators have skill. But they need to figure out what to do with it. This is a half-hearted effort.

Grade: C

 

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