||GANG OF FOUR
Entertainment - Remastered
||"Not Great Men"
||"Outside the Trains Don't Run on Time"
Remember in the '90s when it seemed like every new band, from
Olivia Tremor Control to the High Llamas, were either mentioning
the influence of, or getting compared to, the Beach Boys? Fast-forward
a couple of years, and everyone from Franz Ferdinand to Bloc Party
to the Rapture have been linked to a group from another era yet
again, this time it's Gang of Four. And like the Beach Boys, whose
Pet Sounds was the album du jour for so many '90s artists,
you do have to wonder what direction popular modern music would
have taken during the first half of the 2000s had it not been
for the existence of the watershed LP, Entertainment. It's
not that Gang of Four's influence wasn't felt during the latter
part of the '80s, and carried through the next decade, you could
hear it in the sounds of bands like Big Black, Fugazi and Unwound--groups
who all openly acknowledged their love for the Leeds post-punkers.
And that's not even mentioning the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Gang of Four's 1979 debut full-length, Entertainment,
is an album that still stands on its own as one of the most brilliantly
subversive (anti-pop) pop records to come out of the latter part
of the 20th century. Andy Gill's razor sharp-guitar work, Jon
King's dry, spoken/shouted commentary on capitalism, gender politics
and media, and bassist David Allen and drummer Hugo Burnham's
propulsive and often funky rhythm base collectively seemed to
spit in rock music's eyeball, all the while still being catchy,
hummable and most of all, exhilarating.
Available only as an import for almost a decade, we finally have
a domestic version again. Rhino's edition is newly remastered
(and noticeably crisper), featuring the 12 original tracks plus
eight bonus cuts, including 1980's four-song Yellow EP,
which contains two of my favorite Gang of Four tunes, "Outside
the Trains Don't Run on Time" and "Armalite Rifle."
There's a live recording of "Blood Free" (a rare track
that was never properly put to tape in the studio), as well as
a cover of "Sweet Jane." For me, Entertainment
is ground zero, an album that, while barely a teenager, saved
me from the songs being played on 98 ROCK FM and made me search
left of the dial and beyond. The music I listen to and buy hasn't
been the same ever since. [GH]