In the heady days of late seventies post-punk and new wave, the Gang Of Four emerged from Leeds, an angry four-piece memorably named after a Chinese political faction. Their debut album ‘Entertainment!’ is still cited as a long-lasting classic from the era of ‘Marquee Moon’ by Television, ‘Fear of Music’ by Talking Heads, ‘Unknown Pleasures’ by Joy Division and many more. Their mix of social comment, political thought and the ultra-spiky guitar of Andy Gill was and still is a hypnotic cocktail.
The band have undergone line-up changes, including a proper reunion of the original members in 2004. More upheaval has now left Andy Gill as the only original member and the driving force behind the new ninth album ‘What Happens Next’. Opening track ‘Where The Nightingale Sings’ starts with a pounding bass thud, guitar figures punctuates in and out and builds well into some strange apocalyptic imagery of London. Alison Mosshart, singer in The Kills and collaborator with Jack White takes on lead vocals in the rocky ‘Broken Talk’ and ‘England’s In My Bones’.
‘Isle of Dogs’ pulls no punches, an insistent guitar backing and distorted lyrics about corporate shenanigans. Successful German actor and singer Herbert Grönemeyer is guest vocalist on a contemplative track ‘The Dying Rays’ (and ‘Staubkorn’, the same song sung in German(?)). ‘Obey The Ghost’ is a gentle introduction into a nightmare vision of media control set to strident bass pedals and layers of industrial metallic fuzz. ‘First World Citizen’ features soaring guitar and a brittle chorus, almost catchy. Robbie Furze is another guest singer on ‘Graven Image’ then there is some heavy riffing from collaborating guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei on ‘Dead Souls’.
So it is a challenging listen, not comfortable in many ways but certainly an antidote to the anodyne lyrical concerns and painless musical meanderings of some other bands. It sounds like the band still have an explosive live show too…