Well here it comes: according to bassist Dave Allen, there’s a new all-digital Gang of Four album in the works. If I had to point the finger at just one, I’d say that Gang of Four’s first release Entertainment! is possibly my favourite album ever, and the follow-ups Solid Gold and companion EP Another Day, Another Dollar are also fantastic. Then they lost their rhythm section and everything went a bit wrong until 1995’s Shrinkwrapped.
So I was overjoyed when they reformed with the original lineup a couple of years ago and I actually got to see the band play. They might have aged but hey – it suits them! I’ve seen their dorky performance on the Old Grey Whistle Test. These days Jon King is proper menacing. But I digress.
They reformed just at the right time, at a point where a load of bands who were basically churning out watered-down GoF while being lauded for their ‘innovation’ had shown there’s an audience for this stuff – an audience who deserved to hear it done by the people who influenced generations of musicians (I’m sure the Minutemen would have joined them but… well that clearly can’t happen). What I still don’t understand is why they chose to complement the subsequent wider tour with Return The Gift, compilation of their re-recorded classics. Why? Who does that? Entertainment! is perfect as it is.
At least, I said at the time, they should try recording something new. And now they are. Password is my favourite of the demos. But I’m worried. They’re in a tight spot. Now they’re back with almost the original lineup (sadly missing Hugo on drums), but they’re returning to a saturated post-punk market. In a way the post-punk ‘revival’ has already moved on and evolved just like it did before – except this time, instead of new wave, we got nu rave and a whole lot more.
Will they be able to remain important, edgy, and exciting? Will da yoof be able to distinguish them from 57,000 other angular-guitar-and-funky-bass outfits? I sincerely hope so. But I’m not sure that looking to the past it the way to do it: although a lot of people don’t even seem to know of its existence, Shrinkwrapped worked for me because it did at least feel relevant – a reflection of the band’s new home country and the seedier sides of American consumer society.
I hope they can do something like that again, even if it doesn’t recreate the original, urgent asthetic I loved so much, because surely that belonged to 1979 – and now they’ve got to prove themselves again. Good luck, lads. I’ll be listening.
Photo courtesy of Mediaeater/Creative Commons