A Different Kind Of Busy is the best way to describe the Sydney experimental whizzards. In 2016 their debut single 'Glue' went on rotation for Triple J. 2017 saw them as the NSW winners for the Triple J Unearthed Laneway Competition, and internationally their gas-themed singles 'Lung Capacity' & 'Helium' have taken the KEXP Song of the Day two years running. And despite all this, we almost broke them. Ready to call it quits, the band were ready to go on hiatus one day before the Ronies hit and ground the world to a halt. Able to take a timeout, frontman Mark Piccles was able to set the groundwork for the album over a two-week period:
“Our Melbourne show was cancelled whilst we were in line at the airport and I remember being in the cab home thinking, ‘this is done, we are finished’. I didn't have anything left to give, and band morale was at zero,”
“Then 2020 comes around and I decide I'm some sort of an adult and should take on a full time job, and for once, put music on the back burner… COVID happens. Lockdowns happen. I suddenly end up with expendable income, and nothing but time. Just like the start of the band itself, it happened organically.”
"Defender" represents a second wind for the band, with the track 'November' already featuring on Tone Deaf's Community Radio Australian Music Picks and the music video featuring on Rage. Equal parts hilarious and beautiful, you can catch the video here:
Touching on the album, Mark stated:
"I called it ‘DEFENDER’ because it is a record about defending oneself from oneself. It's about your worst critic, your worst enemy. Which of course, is you. No matter how big or small an issue is in your life, sometimes you have to be an advocate for yourself. You have to forgive yourself, defend yourself, show up for yourself.”
Let's jump into the ten-track boot-scoot and get our hoedown on. The first track is 'Concerning Patters,' which Mark illuminates: "This started out as a stream of consciousness exercise that I just kept building on. Fun fact: it's the longest a.d.k.o.b song to date."
The song begins as some dreamy Sandman number, sans the acapella. Into the dreamscape we delve as the instrumenties calibrate themselves one by one. The drums come and go and we lift the cloche on some delissimo tchasty tchime tchanges. This is the song to listen to when you're cruisin' round the city, preferably in heelys roller-shoes. Don't even get me started on the sultry sax climax.
'No Floor' is nombre 2, which begins with the Pete Murray strum of a guitar, before being sucked into a nightmare black hole and crumpling in on itself. It really takes a turn into your friendly neighbourhood mirror-hall and comes out warped with chronic o-bass-ity. It's actually really catchy and is definitely the song you need when you find your brain doing extracurricular activity.
Track number 3 is 'Kind Of Alright,' with Mark stating:
"This was an early one to come along in putting the album together. I think I was trying to do a "thing" where dynamics would often crescendo but never quite pay off with a bang. The musical idea behind that sort of informed what the lyrics are vaguely about - being content but never satisfied."
Musically it features some really cool circular rhythmic section that gets your brain wiggles all in the tingles. Fuzzy and mesmeric, 'Kind Of Alright' is what would happen to the Lion King soundtrack if it was composed by a madman. I like the crashing thunder dynamic slashes, and the pay-off is that our minds are blown. I am a big fan of the ending, similar to an unfinished letter it makes us ask questions and leaves us unanswered.
Number four is 'I'll Wait':
"This is probably the quickest song to come together for the record. Mostly done in one day, it just happened. It was almost too syrupy to put on the album for me but I just couldn't deny that it belonged somewhere on the track list. It's about personal discipline."
I really like the reminiscent synths and freaky little notes into the fat croons on the vocals. The tone shift from the high vocals into the smooth deep vox in the bridge hits just right and the track delivers a whole boatload of swag.
5 is 'Lift,' with Mark hinting:
"This one might be my personal favourite. It's grim and dissonant. It's hard to say what this one is about.. but it's certainly a darker moment for the subject of the song."
You know me, I'm a big fan of the darkness, so let's get our fringes straightened and jump right into it. Immediately the voice hits you and the track builds and builds. It certainly is a more raw track than those preceding it. The choral accompaniment is haunting, and when the drum beat drops we are well and truly down the rabbit hole. They've captured the theme perfectly. It feels like swimming directionless in abyssal depths with bioluminescence sporadically bursting all around you. You can only go deeper.
Now on to the B-side, with 'Sophie' at number 6. From the start you're smacked in the balls with punchy drums and bass strings flopping on the floor. If you ever need to strut, this is the song for you. We're onto a strong shift for the second half of the album, with 'Sophie' being perfectly balanced between eerie and finger-pistol heel-and-toe action.
"An early piece in the creation of Defender, I think "Sophie' is the song on the record that sounds most like our older material. It's almost a link song, between our 'then and now' as a band. It's a false bravado song."
Back to the dreamcatching for number 7, "A Boring Neighbourhood" starts off weightless, before progressing into ever-increasing forlorn depths. This is actually the first single from the album, and you can see why. There's something about it between the ethereal reminiscence that is really reflective and engrossing.
Track 8 is 'Valves,' and immediately it sounds different from all before it. The first thing you notice is some sort of System of a Down bassline mincing your mindhole. The background drone makes it feel really spacious, and the vocals come in foreboding and haunting. The B-side definitely tickling my pickle on this record, A.D.K.O.B. have really outdone themselves with this album. Let's just pretend when the guitar hits in the chorus that we didn't all get goosebumps on our special places. Mark described this song as "emotionally draining," and I can really see why. But this cathartic outpour is precisely why we like it. This might be my pick of the album. I'm definitely going to listen to this on some rainy bus trips. LET THE PAIN BEGIN.
Our penultimate song is 'Forgive Yourself,' perhaps appropriately after last song's mascara overload. This record is really starting to quicken my tickin'. Fingers on strings start our journey, and you can really hear the room it was recorded in. Mr Piccles puts it best: "Not heaps to tell with this one - it's a ballad. It's a bit personal."
Building with rolling cymbals into the second half, 'Forgive Yourself' really drops us into the middle of the Desert of Introspection with nothing to drink except our tears.
The final song is 'November,' leaving us on an upbeat note. Although the music sounds chipper, the lyrics are actually still quite dour. This album is really a rollercoaster, with a nice mix of emotions.
And there we have it. Defender drops today on October 31st, so get your spookiest headphones out and have an ear-party. To celebrate the release of the album, A.D.K.O.B are doing an album launch show at Waywards in Sydney on the 2nd of December. This record really surprised me, so if you find yourself in Botany Bay, definitely get down there. A huge resounding shout-out to the band, who put together such a monumental release and I think I speak for us all here when I say I'm glad you didn't fall apart. Get down there on the 2nd and see lightning arc from their fingertips and tears hit the floor! Tickets available HERE.