Music News

Gang of Four

Since articles about dance punksters such as Franz Ferdinand that don't include a Gang of Four reference are rarer than Nobel laureates at a Carrot Top concert, the timing of this deluxe reissue is ideal. Not only does Entertainment! hold up better than anyone might have predicted upon the disc's 1979 release, but it underlines the distinctions between innovation and homage.

Listeners hearing the likes of "At Home He's a Tourist" for the first time will immediately pick up on musical elements that echo through today's alterna-scene: brittle funk rhythms, aggressive guitars, yelping vocals. Yet the riffing here is edgier and more atonal than the present approximation, and the tunes' lyrical leftism smacks of passion, not fashion.

Even the Gang couldn't maintain this level of intensity for long; several bonus tracks, culled from a subsequent EP, aren't as strong as what precedes them. Since later albums were marked by an even greater qualitative dropoff, expectations for the act's current comeback attempt are modest. At this point, the Four's creative children can probably imitate their classic sound better than they can. That's Entertainment!

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts