By: Eric Greenwood
Released in 1979, Gang Of Four’s Entertainment is the quintessential post punk album, representing the first marriage of punk, funk, and politics that actually worked. The band’s trademark sound fused a tight rhythm section with unorthodox harmonies and searing, staccato guitars.
The band’s use of sarcasm and hyperbole in its political rants made Gang Of Four’s music hard for the masses to swallow. The band only reached the UK Top Forty once with the single “At Home He’s A Tourist” and lost its big chance to cast a wider net when it was banned from performing on Britain’s Tops Of The Pops for refusing to remove the word “rubbers” from its lyrics.
Politicizing is not the essence of Gang Of Four, however. The bitterness is couched by a thinly veiled sense of humor, but the music counters any sense of disingenuousness. The group’s passion and energy spews forth in sharp, angular bursts thanks to Andy Gill’s expertly timed guitar work and Jon King’s mannered inflection.
The band’s use of modern imagery works well against the machine-like rhythms, particularly on the classic, “Damaged Goods” as well as “Guns And Butter” and “Anthrax.” Jon King’s brash, affected vocals relay his frustration and anger without going over the top: “Your kiss so sweet/Your sweat so sour/Sometimes I’m thinking that I love you/But I know it’s only lust” (“Damaged Goods”). His harmonies display a keen sense of melody hidden beneath the carefully structured anti-pop.
Gang Of Four’s influence looms largely today. Bands from Fugazi to Shellac take cues from Gang Of Four’s patented, herky-jerky dynamic. Sadly, the quality of the band’s output suffered with each successive release, leaving Entertainment as its one truly great album.