Gary Steel is slowly compiling all his album reviews in one place. This is a work in progress, or what we call a “live document”. Today is the letter ‘G’.
Gang Of Four is British, not Chinese: that’s official. They are socialists. Not that it makes a lot of difference. Gang Of Four is a group of British musicians who, along with others such as Pil and The Cure, plays the most stimulating, important sounds currently to be heard.
Their debut album, Entertainment! – available in NZ a mere 10 months after its release in England – is nothing short of phenomenal. The lyrics, all clearly enunciated by vocalist Jon King, are at the least provocative and often thought-provokingly serious.
In ‘Naturals Not In It’ and ‘At Home He’s A Tourist’, they examine the new age of leisure, and ‘Contract’ rails against marriage. ‘Anthrax’, the grand finale, uses Hendrix-like guitar feedback to drive its point (“Love will get you like a case of Anthrax”) home.
‘Five-Forty-Five’ is a frightening anti-TV tirade: “Watch new blood on the 18-inch screen, the corpse is the new personality.”
The music reflects the band’s collectivist ideals in as much as each instrument has an equally important role to play. In an effort to avoid established rock sounds and cliches, they have created something new, though not entirely devoid of influence. Andy Gill’s clean, jagged guitar is r’n’b derived, and the music packs the thwack of Beefheart’s Magic Band in its better moments.
The rhythm occasionally resorts to a form of mutated disco, while the sound itself is layered in a form comparable with Jamaican dub.
There are apparent contradictions between their ideals and reality, typified by ‘At Home He’s A Tourist’ where they recount: “She said she was ambitious, so she accepts the process… two steps forward, six steps back, six steps back.”
Surely Gang Of Four accepted “the process” by signing with a multinational record company. But the contradiction does little to detract from the almost faultless, powerful music on Entertainment!
Praise must also go to EMI New Zealand, for the excellent pressing and packaging of this album. 9/10
Frannie Golde – Frannie (Portrait)
Golde’s debut is professionally produced but unexciting fare. 4/10
Peter Green, ex-the inspiration behind the brilliant F. Mac of old, in his much-awaited and recently vaunted ‘comeback’.
His return from religious obscurity brings us an album full of instrumentals featuring relaxed, spare guitar, to a laidback Santana rhythm.
Though it’s a nice sound, excessive praise has been sickening. He brings in another guitarist for the fruitiest solos, his own playing sounding more like ‘Apache’ than ‘Albatross’, and being distinctly rusty around the edges.
Still, it makes for pleasant background noise. But next to the work of old, it’s enough to make you cry. 6/10