Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Gang of Four – Return the Gift (V2, 2005)

Can a vaguely Marxist punk rock band from the 1970’s still be relevant in the mid-2000’s? Well, after hearing their influence in a stream of British punk-pop bands like Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand, Gang of Four returned to find out with a reunion tour. Instead of chronicling this by cranking out a quickie live album or disc of new material, the band went into the studio and re-recorded some of their most well-known songs. While this may seem like a cash-in ready made for disaster (middle aged musicians trying to regain their radical youth) the results are remarkable and the disc simply kicks butt from start to finish.

Beginning with an update, “To Hell With Poverty 2005” the bands trademark angular guitar riffs are in place, sounding only a little updated for the garage rock revival. As for the song itself, it resonates as much today as it did back in the days of punk filled London squats. The other politically charged tracks on this album like “He’d Send in the Army” and “Not Great Men” blast the status quo while supporting the underclass. "Capital" is a blasting indictment of the culture of debt: From the moment I was born/I opened my eyes/I reached out for my credit card! It’s not all clenched-fist anthems however, the band’s most well known tune, “Anthrax,” is here equating love to poison and chemical warfare. “At Home He’s Just a Tourist” is another great cautionary tale of suburban blight. It’s great to hear these songs brought alive with such enthusiasm, and it’s easy to see why this band has been such an influence on modern rock and roll. Highly recommended.

Send comments to: Tim