Gang of Four
Not Great Men
Writer: JUSTIN HOPPER
One could be forgiven for thinking that Gang of Four isnt so much a band
as a rock critics hype-pitch panacea: Step right up and get a taste of
Dr. Reynolds all-purpose Gang of Four angular snake oil and ape repellent,
a wonderful pain-destroying compound and the strongest and best liniment
known for the cure of all pain and lameness. As if the mere names -- Jon
King, Andy Gill, Hugo Burnham and Dave Allen -- of these post-punk saints
were enough to send the enemies of Good Music scattering and the recipient
of their graces into ecstatic convulsion.
But since the dawn of the new century, it seems weve invoked those words
one too many times: angular guitars, muscular bass, dance-, disco-,
post-punk. (See sidebar.) And now weve invited the Mephistophelean band
into our study three times -- wake up and smell the brimstone -- and here
In the late 70s/early 80s, Gang of Four was one of seemingly thousands of
bands to emerge with unlikely artistic flourish from the Northern England
industrial center of Leeds. Along with drinking buddies such as the Mekons,
Delta 5, even Sisters of Mercy, Gang of Four represented a new take on
punk: If no one can play well, then anyone can. Cramming on Funkadelic bass
lines and Situationist texts rather than their art-school homework, King
and Gill co-wrote Entertainment!, now on anyones list of the greatest rock
albums ever and resurgent as most-name-droppable. Songs like Naturals Not
in It and Not Great Men attacked both mainstream musics musical and
lyrical kid gloves and the idea that rebellion and change had to come from
great men creating great moments. The subversion of leisure time, the power
of tiny unseen movements: Gang of Four proved its own point by creating a
musical revolution with small steps and big ideas.
Now, the all-original-lineup reunion of the Gang has given us Return the
Gift, 14 re-recordings of their classic chunes -- made by the same
musicians and meant to sound no different at all. Why? For one thing,
theres Andy Gill: Since the Gangs breakup, the guitarist has become one
of the most sought-after producers in alt-rock, Chili Peppers to Killing
Joke, and hes something of a sonic perfectionist. Entertainment! and Solid
Gold and the like were groundbreaking and brilliant, but they were also
done on-the-punk. (Plus, its hard to remix live-take studio drums: Return
the Gifts U.K. companion disc has remixes by all the name-drop faves, from
Hot Hot Heat to Ladytron.) c
[Production: Lay the following out in a list or review-style or something.
Ive dropped art in the folder (as 1music_XX.jpg) if you need/want it.]
Gang of Five
Five 21st-century Gang of Four rip-offs that didnt suck
In an ocean of Raptures and Radio 4s, its hard to do too much
wheat-from-chaffing -- the cheesier stuff (The Raptures House of Jealous
Lovers) can still be thrilling; the denser material (Numbers) can prove
off-putting, and the combination thereof (Ex-Models) can be just right.
Here are five songs that prove the kids of today might just get it, even
if it is now 20 years old.
Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard by !!!, from 12-inch single
Nine minutes of man-in-uniform-loving P-Funk (P as in Paralysis of the
State) from Americas most emphatically named politico-disco-punks. !!!
gets not just Gang of Fours musical ambitions, but the innate social
distrust of Jon Kings lyrics. Two !s up.
This Fire by Franz Ferdinand, from Franz Ferdinand
Say what you will about Brit-pops sometime heroes, sometime whipping boys:
This Fire is one of the most instantly infectious and exciting guitar
songs of the post-guitar age. Plus, yelling about burning cities down is a
lovely and quaint little British tradition that ought be sanctified by more
than just the National Trust.
18,000 Lira by Art Brut, from Bang Bang Rock & Roll
To sign off from the bands debut album, Art Brut chose to complete its
pledge of allegiance to 1981 with the Gang-attack 18,000 Lira. Although
most of Bang Bang flip-flops between The Fall and Ian Dury worship, Lira
invokes Jon Kings story-speak verses and Andy Gills pointed guitar jab.
Ninety seconds: Hook em and fuck em.
Every Day Is a Child with Teeth by Liars, from Fins to Make Us More
Not too political / nothing too clever! Straight out of the King/Gill
playbook, yet done with a finesse and chaotic sincerity expected from the
archetypal Brooklyn post-punk band. From the three-song EP that doubles as
its best record.
Retreat, the Most Familiar, Extensive, I Bet! by Erase Errata, from Split
Frantic disco-and-toms beat, piercing trebly guitar, Situationist lyrics,
and the predecessor to list runner-up Daft Punk Is Playing at My House,
by LCD Soundsystem: This, baby, is the good stuff, oh yeah.
Gang of Four with Morningwood and Men, Women & Children. 7:30 p.m. Tue.,
Oct. 4. Mr. Smalls Theater, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $17.50.