Gang of Four - Content
Alex Nelson 01/02/2011
To the musically uninitiated of us out there, Gang of Four may seem like the ultimate in rip-off merchants; the fact they haven't released an album in some 16 years will inevitably lead to this latest offering becoming the first blip of the band on many people's radars. When listened to without an ounce of context, this album smacks of a band seven years too late to catch the wave of post-punk revivalism spearheaded by bands such as Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party and The Futureheads etc.
When listened to in its correct historical and political context, it actually appears to be the fathers (or should that be grandfathers? GoF have been writing the jagged-edged rulebook for nigh on 35 years now...) of post-punk busting out another akimbo guitared masterclass on how things are done right. Your favourite band has been ripping THEM off all these years!
Yes, that tired old music journo safeguard phrase of 'angular guitars' is always one that's going to find its way into a Gang Of Four review - guitarist Andy Gill pretty much invented them - but there really is no better phrase to use under the circumstances. 'Content' is like a refreshed version of all of Gang Of Four's best bits; the gleefully spiky intersecting guitars of 1979 debut Entertainment!, combined with the disco-funk samba of albums Songs Of The Free and Hard.
'She Said 'You Made A Thing Of Me' is quite simply a sublime album opener. Andy Gill reminding us he is a guitarist of two halves, his noisier free form side fashioning an abstract root from the chaos of feedback and tremolo, a trick not seen since tracks such as the joyfully squealy 'Anthrax'. The song quickly cements itself in your brain, such is its catchiness, before subsiding in favour of the hilariously spiky 'You Don't Have To Be Mad'.
Gill's somewhat rough edged pluckings are smoothed somewhat throughout the album by Thomas McNeice's glossy bass playing, which is heavily apparent on late album track 'I Can See From Far Away' as his four-string duels with raspy drums and distorted vocals. Earlier track 'You'll Never Pay For The Farm' sounds like the best bits of Howlin' Pelle Almqvist's band of Swedish punk rock party starters The Hives(sorry, we mean that The Hives sound like 'You'll Never Pay For The Farm', of course), as Jon King's chant vocals clatter against the malodorous garage-punk guitars.
Overall, this record combines all the spiky guitar action we have all come to expect and love from Gang Of Four, along with some softer sounds and some slack funk bass action. It reads like a 'best of...' if instead of curating all their best tracks, the band had got together to write new material that encompasses all aspects of those tracks in a brand new package. While it may not reach the dizzying greatness of debut Entertainment!, it proves to be a good starting point for any fan wanting to get into the band, and find out just where Bloc Party got the idea for those stereoed duelling guitars on 'Banquet'('Damaged Goods').