Gang of Four – Content
The slightly late review of Gang of Four’s comeback album…
None too concerned with the onward march of time, or, indeed, the mixed bag of results the recent gaggle of band reunions has produced, Andy Gill and his Gang of Four have returned from the beyond, some sixteen years since their last album, and arrived in a world where radio is pockmarked with their influence, everywhere from intelligent post-punk, to direct copycatting (porkpie-hatted-mockney bands, form an orderly queue for identification), yet their main modus operandi could not be more lost. The social conscience that Gang of Four exercised in their legendary first run, most notably all-time classic Entertainment!, could just as easily be applied to today, the benign result of ignoring the problems identified even then. In a world more in need than ever of dissenting voices, it’s great to see Gang of Four not only back, but speaking up as loud as ever they have.
She Said ‘You Made a Thing of Me’ shakes the album alive, a hail of familiar guitars and vastly unfamiliar distortion. Gang of Four fans have nothing to fear here, this record has neither settled into nostalgia nor moved on desperately away from their body of work. The groove of Who Am I? is offset by the conscience and attack on society’s self-centredness, summed up amazingly in the chorus: “Who am I when everything is me?“. The trademark, angular shapes that have been thrown so indelibly into music’s very core resurface, but are skewed and distorted simply because they feel like it, I Can’t Forget Your Lonely Face, slowing down to a lazy, albeit considered, strut. You’ll Never Pay For the Farm ruminates with a Cheshire Cat-wide grin on the inevitability of death and taxes. I Party All The Time turns on an elaborate swagger, soul-y backing vocals and all, sniping at ignorance of the issues.
A Fruitfly in the Beehive barely comfortably snakes around a molten groove, a part-post-punk, part-bossa-nova broadside at 9-to-5 existence. Punctuated with dry vocoder and slow, clanging percussion, It Was Never Gonna Turn Out Too Good is a paean to the helplessness of modern life. Do As I Say mellows out into a gently shapeshifting piece of classic Gang of Four, while I Can See From Far Away brings the album to a typically awkward halt.
The subject matter aside, the fact is Gang of Four have matured in the past sixteen years, the music lacking the tempestuousness and volume of old. For long-time fans, this either comes as a surprise or a logical step forward. The layers of polish applied by (admittedly amazing in his own right) Andy Gill in his producer’s chair has also been somewhat of a game changer, giving him the ability to fully implement his vision. But in an age where everything in arts is referred to as product, “content” as it were, the substance on offer here proves yet again that music is more than just a “thing”, and furthermore, if you can take the change of pace, that Gang of Four in 2011 are still an important musical voice.
DROP-D RATING: 8/10