Return Of The Gang Of Four
Portland, Oregon Having just inked a deal with V2 Records, the
recently reunited post-punk pioneers Gang of Four will release a new album a
two-CD set on August 30.
One CD will feature new versions of classic songs that first appeared on their
albums, which the band re-recorded in London a few
months ago. Included are "To Hell With Poverty," "I Love a Man in a Uniform" and "Damaged
Goods." The second CD consists of their versions of contemporary
songs by the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ladytron, Dandy Warhols and The Futureheads.
Gang of Four, who originally formed in Leeds, England in 1977, reunited last year following heavy encouragement from industry folk. "It got to such a pressure from the outside that we all at least had to sit down and talk about it," bassist Dave Allen said in a recent interview at a neighborhood pub. "It would be stupid to say 'Nah, can't be bothered.'
"Turned out, there was genuine interest from all four members to perform again," he added.
The group released four trailblazing, politically informed punk albums, including
1979's critically acclaimed Entertainment and 1981's Solid Gold.
They combined smart, sarcastic lyrics that targeted social and political issues
with tough, angular and discordant punk rock. It was a fresh sound that has been
much copied but never bettered.
Gang of Four split in 1984 due to differences amongst the remaining bandmembers Allen had left the group two years earlier. "I was the first member of the band to leave and I never figured that I would be allowed to play with them again," Allen said, laughing. "This is like divorce central. And, yet, I suppose things kinda just happen. Finally the planets were aligned and each member said OK.
"Even Dave," he added, laughing again.
No doubt prompted in part by the recent post-punk revival, Gang of Four's reunion may seem timely, especially given the frequency with which their name comes up in the media today. But while the discordant reggae-inspired rhythms they first introduced to punk have been appropriated by such bands as Franz Ferdinand and The Futureheads, Allen feels all the comparisons are hardly fair. "There are multiple problems with this idea that these bands sound anything like Gang of Four," he said. "Problem one is the journalists have been lazy; if they think of writing a review that says X band sounds like Gang of Four, then they certainly didn't go and drag out Entertainment and listen to it.
"Anyone coming to the shows will immediately see that we are light years ahead of them, and still today," he added. "They have not a lot in common with us. The big deviation really is lyrically, and then live I've seen some of these bands live and they just don't have a patch on Gang of Four."
Next to Gang of Four, the revivalists are mild, conservative and high-fashion, Allen said. "They hardly break a sweat and look gorgeous in their clothes that’s not what Gang of Four is about.”
Gang of Four kicked off a U.S. tour at the Coachella Music Festival last weekend and are currently touring the West Coast. Check their Web site for complete tour dates. Jenny Tatone [Thursday, May 5, 2005]