Now Gang of Four are the godfathers of post punk, and you could cut down a whole forest of stationery in order to write the names of bands that are inevitably indebted to their presence. The band themselves have had a real insurgence, and their live shows are still something to behold. Nevertheless it was with much surprise that the Marxists roustabouts (as well as another behemoth of the genre, Wire, whose Red Barked Tree we will look at shortly and as an aside were playing at the same festival back in 08!) announced they were recording an album of new material. It must be mentioned that I held this news with much trepidation. Many great bands come back after many years with 'something to say', and the resultant mess does nothing other than sully the good work that had come before them (Weezer with just about anything they've done since Pinkerton is just one example).
So here it is - Content, 11 tracks of politico post punk. And...its not too shabby. Sure, the angular anger is somewhat tempered, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that their enduring influences means we hear watered down versions of their sound in every stadium and 'hip' television soundtrack nowadays. But there is still so much to recommend here that Content becomes a album of worth. Opener 'She Said 'You Made A Thing Of Me'' is a brooding propulsive number that holds vicariously onto the Go4 aesthetic of old, and 'Who Am I?' feels like we are back in the 70s, with just a touch of a nod to their myriad progeny (Franz Ferdinand, anyone?) The real surprise for me is 'It Was Never Going To Turn Out Too Good' - another track utilising vocoder this month to great effect. The Gothic menace that builds over the track's short playing time is impressive, and showcases an act willing to show innovation and add to their sound palette rather than rest on their sizable laurels.
Content therefore acquits itself, and even offers up some worthy listens. That said, it isnt the redefining album that contemporaries Mission of Burma proved to produce with their The Sound The Speed The Light back in 2009, but it does show a band that know who they are, that are still lean and hungry, and still have a lot to offer that the future generations could learn from, rather than ape.
Content is out January 24th on Gronland Records.