Although more of a solo project for Andy Gill who, following the departure of Jon King is now the only original member, there’s still enough of Gang of Four in this gang of one (yeah, I couldn’t pass it up…) to make it a worthwhile listen. Anyone expecting a record bathed in the searing angular post punk of 1979 (the year debut album Entertainment! was released) is in for a surprise. For Gill has never been one to hang around, saying of the record “I’m the opposite of one of these bands that has a sound they keep doing exactly the same way. I’m not some guy stuck in 1980, I’m here now, and I’m responding to the world around me, both in the words that I write and the music that I come up with.”
Gang of Four v.2019 – Gil is joined by Thomas McNeice, John ‘Gaoler’ Sterry and Tobias Humble, play the trump card of pop sensibilities (and melodies) all wrapped up in this sort of punk/funk, industrial-ish (more a small industrial estate off the m69 that say, Middlesbrough) backing. Full of synths and samples, but all slightly subservient to Gills wiry, rakish guitar sound, which plays around the texture, sometimes soloing, sometimes playing along with the vocal or synth melodies, but always at the heart of something. It’s akin to (especially given vocalist John ‘Goaler’ Sterry’s resemblence, at least in sound, to) Barrel of a Gun Depeche Mode (Don’t ask me could literally be a album track on Ultra) and post millenium Gary Numan.
But some things remain the same, and a band brought up in the north on a diet of Thatcher and McGregor, the steelworks and the miners strike, are happy to aim fire at Brexit, the state of the nation, and Trump (the brilliantly sardonic Ivanka: My Name’s on it) and anything else that seems relevant to Gill. In doing so, Happy Now is a relevant statement on life right now.
Over the course of nine songs, which sit together and are largely drawn together in their similar, slightly dour, dystopian electro rock outlook, Gang of Four prove they are still relevant, and as the jewel in the crown, the brilliant Change the Locks sits with the very best of Gills songs, though very different ones than he wrote for that first record. Is it a classic Gang of Four record? Maybe not quite, but it’s a good one, and that’s better than a lot of their younger charges out there right now.