Gang Of Four

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More fun than a barrel of Marxists
*special introductory paragraph!
*Yellow EP
*Solid Gold
*Another Day, Another Dollar EP
*The Peel Sessions
*Songs Of The Free
*At The Palace
*Tattoo EP
*100 Flowers Bloom
*Return The Gift

The Gang of Four was the name given to a leftist political faction composed of four Chinese Communist party officials. They came to prominence during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and were subsequently charged with a series of treasonous crimes. The members consisted of Jon King, the leading figure of the group, and his close associates Andy "Mr. Low Voice" Gill, Dave Allen and Hugo Burnham. The Gang of Four effectively controlled the power organs of the Communist Party of China through the latter stages of the Cultural Revolution, although it remains unclear which major decisions were made through Mao Zedong and carried out by the Gang, and which were the result of the Gang of Four's own planning. The Gang of Four, together with disgraced Communist general Lin Biao, were labeled the two major "counter-revolutionary forces" of the Cultural Revolution and officially blamed for the worst excesses of the societal chaos that ensued during the ten years of turmoil. Their downfall with the awful dance-pop album Hard in 1983, a mere seven years after Mao's death, brought about major celebrations on the streets of Beijing and marked the end of a turbulent political era in China.

Entertainment! - EMI 1979
Rating = 8

If it's FUN you're after, look no further than the goodtime party boys of Gang Of Four! On this delightfully whimsical debut recording, Messrs King, Gill, Allen and Burnham shove gigantic sticks as far up their asses as possible to bring you the following party-hearty messages:

- History is written by the rich
- All human relationships are based on power
- Lust prevents man from reaching his full potential
- The media and politicians only act in their own interest
- Commercialism, entertainment and sex are tools used to numb the masses to their plight
- Patriotism is the leaders' way of tricking the masses into sacrificing themselves in war
- Marriage is only a contract, and love as depicted in the entertainment world does not exist
- One can only live 'the good life' by treading (either knowingly or unknowingly) on the backs of the less fortunate
- Repeated exposure to violent images on the TV news only has the effect of making it seem as unreal as fictional violence on the other shows


Furthermore, not only are the lyrics a bunch of smug Marxist propaganda, but Jon King and Andy Gill have two of the most bitter and humorless British voices you will ever hear. They quite literally sound like they don't want you to enjoy listening to their music. Nevertheless, the record is so full of dancey, hooky, smart and creative songs that it's a must-own in spite of its overriding pissy mood. The recipe is one cup crisp drums alternating between military patterns and swinging dance beats, one pint dub-inspired bass, and one quart scratchy guitar scraggles without a hint of reverb. Stir to a foamy broth and voila! A shitty metaphor.

Seriously, if there was ever a guitar tone that cried out for the description 'scratchy,' this is IT. If you thought Steve "Big Black" Albini came up with that harsh, assaultive sound on his own, Thing Again! Andy Gill was scratching, scraggling, skranking, clinging and clanging way back in Jimmy Carter's 1979! The fact that this scraping juggernaut of metallic pain is placed atop dance-rock rather than industrial death noise is a major reason that Gang Of Four had such a unique sound at this point in their career.

Also, let me clarify that term "dance-rock." This is loud guitar-based rock music, absolutely. But the rhythm section, seemingly influenced at least partially by reggae and funk, ensures that your butt will wiggle all up and down the joint even as your ears bleed with joy and your brain aches to depressing slogans like "Our bodies make us worry," "This heaven gives me migraine" and "Guerilla war struggle is a new entertainment." So grab your contractual partner and dance miserably!

This is tight, confrontational music that may be too caustic in tone for some. These guys aren't cantankerous old Mark E. Smith, cursing out reporters in his adorably insane manner; they are college-educated Marxists determined to show you the harsh underbelly of your capitalist society. Quite frankly, it's incredible that the record has any hooks at all! But not only does it have catchy riffs; it also has thoughtful arrangements, clever bass/drum interplay and groundbreaking guitar work. Not to mention "I Found That Essence Rare," the record's only straightforward rock anthem - and MAN what an anthem! In the first verse, they rhyme "TV," "bikini," "bikini" and "H-bomb," which is pretty amazing considering they went to college.

A few other items of note:
"Ether" - I love bass chords!
"Not Great Men" - The entire guitar line in the verses is "Doooo!" (in left speaker) "Brank!" (in right speaker). I love that!
"Damaged Goods" - A recurring lyric so disgusting that it ruins the entire song for me: "Your kiss so sweet/Your sweat so sour." Yech! Get a room for your yucky taste imagery!
"Guns Before Butter" - Enjoy the looser, abstract feel of this one - because they'd give themselves over entirely to this approach by their next album!
"Glass" - Thanks for the cover of "So You Wanna Be A Rock N' Roll Star"!
"Contract" - What the fuck chord is THAT, Andy Gill!? Are you just makin' shit up now?
"5:45" - How come Gang Of Four reviews never mention this blowy instrument I keep hearing in their songs? I'm told it's a 'melodica' and more power to it!
"Anthrax" - How does a song like this become a classic? It starts with a full MINUTE AND A HALF of guitar feedback, then continues with one of the guys READING A PARAGRAPH ABOUT THE SONG'S MEANING as the other one attempts to sing the actual lyrics. Ridiculous! Still, great song.

As you may have inferred from my comments above, Entertainment! is a bit too crabby for me to *love*. However, it's really, really damned good. And you know me, I only cuss if it's something important.

Piss on a shitburger!

See? Perfect example. Somebody put piss on my shitburger.

Reader Comments
"Doooo!" is on the right, "Brank!" is on the left. There is something terribly wrong with your sound setup, so you'll have to rewrite all of your reviews from 1996 on.
"Your kiss so sweet/Your sweat so sour." Yech! Get a room for your yucky taste imagery!"

I am surprised you can't handle that line, it's great. Reminds me of the summer....anyway I've liked this band for years now, they shit on the Clash.

Add your thoughts?

Yellow EP - EMI 1980
Rating = 5

Check this out! I totally-ass just wrote a Gang Of Four song -- but updated for today's "Now" Urban Generation! I call it "Manifesting The Commune." Let me know what you think because I'm totally-ass gonna forward it to them to record:

by Gang Of Four
Lyrics By Mark Prindle

We see then: the means of production
And of exchange, on whose foundation
The bourgeoisie built itself up
Were generated in feudal society - so let's get fucked up!!!
At a certain stage in the development
Of these means of production - Me So Elegant!
And of exchange, the conditions under which
Feudal society produced and exchanged, bitch!

We're manifesting the commune!
The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet
We're manifesting the commune!
The very foundation on which the bourgeoisie -- Bring back that beat!

The feudal relations of property became
No longer compatible with the already maintained
Productive forces; they became so many fetters.
They had to be burst asunder, booty-wetters!
They were burst asunder; into their place
Stepped free competition, like yo mama's face!
Accompanied by a social and political
Constitution adapted - Let's get physical!

We're manifesting the commune!
What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers
We're manifesting the commune!
Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable -- Yo! My niggaz!!

Rope A Dope!!


So what'd you think? Did I nail their jib or did i jail their nib?

The four-song "Yellow" EP, so nicknamed due to its unfortunate hue (coward), served as an early alert that Gang Of Four had outgrown their disciplined military rock phase and were preparing to embark upon a looser, dubbier, less melodic era of slower and more abstract songmanshipsmithness. Split between '79 and '80 recordings, the EP recalls Entertainment!'s focused compositions with the tense harmonica/sax narrative "It's Her Factory" and hooky two-chord singalong "Armalite Rifle," while confusing and sickening the entire world with the "so loose they'd might as well be demos" versions of future noise-dance classic "Outside The Trains Run On Time" and sluggish semi-reggae "He'd Send In The Army." These songs would soon be re-recorded in much stronger renditions for Solid Gold, but these early versions basically take the 'no guitar riff necessary; just make a bunch of noise' approach of "Guns Before Butter" and apply it to no foundation at all. Unless you're so desperate to dance that you'll settle for the most generic bass lines in the universe, you're better off springing for the fully-cooked Solid Gold versions.

Lyrically, Yellow finds a surprisingly pro-feminist Gang devoting the first three songs to the theme of gender-based fascism in the home -- namely the bullying husband who "wants his wife to fetch," and the wife who "obeys, or is punished." Then the fourth song throws all thematic continuity out the window by inexplicably focusing on the IRA.

Actually, they probably thought they were singing about the 'Iqual Rights Amendment,' the inbred bunch of illiterate dumbasses.

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Solid Gold - Warner Bros. 1981
Rating = 7

And this must be where Bob Dylan introduced the boys to marijuana because hooooeeee Christ are these songs loose and sluggish. Rarely does one run across a band whose second album is such a dramatic departure from their debut. Where Entertainment! sounded like a bunch of stiff little college pricks jabbing you with their pointy disciplined fingers, Solid Gold sounds like those same kids a year after graduation. Having gained some actual experience in the world, rather than just reading Marxist theory about it, they're no longer uptight, preachy and smug, but laid back, humble and (for the most part) more depressed than bitter. This feeling comes through especially in the music, which -- far from the tight compositions of Entertainment! -- generally finds the rhythm section laying down a dub-speed backdrop for Andy Gill to make a bunch of skrankling noise over.

Side one is wonderfully dark, strange and funky (in the Talking Heads definition of the word), which makes it all the more disappointing that side two is depressingly underwritten, repetitive and homogenous. Andy Gill appears to have used up all his actual guitar riffs on side one (to his credit, they're extremely unorthodox ones), devoting most of the B-side to playing basic chords or skrankling around on top of dull 3-note bass lines. The drum lines are unique enough, but who does that help? People with Drummer Ear maybe.

If it's highlights you seek, "Paralysed" is a masterpiece: a perfect musical, lyrical and vocal interpretation of what I and so many other jobless adults are feeling right now -- worthless, finished and cheated. Against a deadening backdrop of tremeloed guitar stabs and Roger Waters-style bass octave leaps, the singer doesn't sing; he speaks: "Blinkered, paralysed. Flat on my back. My ambitions come to nothing. What I wanted now just seems a waste of time. I can't make out what has gone wrong. I was good at what I did. The crows come home to roost. And I'm the dupe."

In other highlights, "Outside The Trains Don't Run On Time" has finally grown into a fantastic dance tune, "What We All Want" is one of the bleakest funk songs (or funkiest bleak songs) you could ever hope to hear, and "If I Could Keep It For Myself" is driven by one of Gill's strangest guitar hooks -- though it mimics the "Outside The Trains" pattern of following strange strangled chords with a single note, this single note sounds like a four-year-old thwacking at a loose E-string. But hey, it works! It's too bad he had to take a four-year-old on tour with him just to reproduce the song every night, then throw it into the river and replace it once it turned five, but that's a decision we all have to make in life.

Most of side two isn't so much bad as just there: too slow to be funky and too empty to be interesting, but still not offensively BAD (although "He'd Send In The Army" is at least listenable now, if not particularly well-arranged). The one exception is the abominable fan favorite "Cheeseburger," which wastes a killer-sick guitar/melodica intro on the most vomitously cheery singalong shit this side of Ziggy Marley. The harmonics guitar line is as weak and corny as Van Halen's similar "Poundcake," the cheesy group vocals sound like Dexy's Midnight Runners taking a crap, the samples of fast food restaurant dialogue fail to make any cohesive statement at all, and the herky-jerk drumbeat demolishes any chance the song could ever have of being considered a 'pop song parody.' It remains one of the band's most popular songs.

The worst thing about the record is that they didn't cover the theme from TV's "Solid Gold." In fact, that may be the worst thing about the entire history of western civilization.

Reader Comments
The loose, sluggish style of Solid Gold was indeed a departure from previous Gang of Four efforts. This served to fuel anti-Gang sentiments at the 1981 show trial where Gang of Four members were convicted of anti-party activities.

During the trial, Jiang Qing in particular was extremely defiant, protesting loudly and bursting into tears at some points. She was the only member of the Gang of Four who bothered to argue on her behalf. Her argument was that she obeyed the orders of Chairman Mao Zedong at all times. Zhang Chunqiao refused to admit any wrongdoing as well. Yao Wenyan and Wang Hongwen expressed repentance and confessed their alleged crimes.

The prosecution separated political errors from actual crimes. Among the latter were the usurpation of state power and party leadership. The official records of the trial have not yet been released.

Jiang Qing and Zhang Chunqiao received death sentences that were later commuted to life imprisonment, while Wang Hongwen and Yao Wenyuan were given life and twenty years respectively. They were all released later to record progressively shittier albums.

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Another Day, Another Dollar EP - Warner Bros. 1982
Rating = 7

But things aren't just tough here; things are crazy all over. For example, last night my condominium broke. I know what you're thinking. You're all in your ivory tower going, "Hay Mark, you're married, 35 and don't want kids. Get a vasectomy!" And sure that's easy to say, but would you let some drunken old quack stab his scalpel into YOUR Special Area(TM)? One wrong move and it's Penisless Jim for everybody! But back to the issue; because I'm a gigantic man that cannot be contained, my condominium broke. As such, I thought to myself, with words coming out of my mouth, "Say, why don't we go to the local CVS 24-hour Pharmacy and get one of those handy-dandy 'Morning After' abortion pills, since I love killing babies." She agreed and we were on our way. She was looking mighty fine; so was I, I must say. Word.

So we got to the CVS Pharmacy and a pleasant enough gentleman said to me, "Are you picking up?" I said, "Yes (because I did in fact have a prescription to pick up, but that's a different subject altogether), but I also have a question." At this, the woman customer next to me said, "Good luck. The wait to ask a question is about three hours." I looked over at the "Drop-Offs/Questions" line and saw a mere three people there. "Hmm," I wondered. The pleasant gentleman said, "What is your question?" Suddenly shy, I asked him, "Are you a pharmacist?" He replied, "No, the pharmacist is back there." That's when I realized that the pharmacist was the reason for the "three-hour wait." Wanting to avoid dealing with an incompetent, I went ahead with my question: "I need to get a morning-after pill for my wife." He responded, "Oh, you'll have to ask him." So I walked back and waited in the tiny 3-person line, listening to the pharmacist slowly tapping keys on his computer keyboard. Slowly. Sloooooowly.

After five minutes, I asked the woman in front of me, "What is he doing?" She ignored me.

Five minutes later, I asked louder, "Seriously, what is he doing?" She responded, "Filling out prescriptions, I guess."

Five MORE minutes later, after watching the pharmacist wander aimlessly and cluelessly around the shelves of medications looking for something, I asked the first woman in line, "Did you just drop off one prescription?" She responded, "No, two. About two hours ago."

At this, I became angered.

The next few minutes are a blur, but I know I shouted something like, "What is taking you so long? What are you doing? There's three people in line! What is this, a third-world country?" At this, the woman in front of me asked, "Why do you have to be so racist?" To be honest, I was actually thinking of Mexico, but I can see why she thought I was making a rude Africa reference. At any rate, I then shouted at her, "Racist!? I've been out of work for three months, and this IDIOT has a job?!" At some point during my harangue, the pharmacist asked me if I was drunk, to which I replied by reading his name tag back to him and saying, "YOU'RE FIRED! I'm calling your supervisor TONIGHT!" By now, I was being eased out of the store by the aforementioned non-pharmacist. Observing that the pick-up line had grown to six people, I said to them in passing, "Good luck getting your prescriptions tonight!" Continuing through the store, I told another CVS employee, "Your pharmacist is an IDIOT!" Then I got in an argument with my wife outside the store, until a drive-by policeman told us to go home. Luckily, I thought better than to shout at him, "YOU'RE FIRED! I'm calling your supervisor TONIGHT!"

My wife understood my anger after I explained the entire situation to her. She thought I'd just caused a scene for the heck of it. But I know for a FACT she would have done the same thing; she tolerates incompetence even less than I do.

And I'm not just some dick. I usually make allowances for people, because heck, when I had a job I made mistakes too. For example, earlier that very same day, I was purchasing five stuffed animals for Henry The Dog down at the local going-out-of-business-to-make-room-for-the-Second-Avenue-subway Rainbow store. I took my goods to the counter, the cashier rang up my total -- $16.26 -- and said to me, "That'll be $16.25." Thinking, "Oh nice, he's not asking for that annoying extra penny," I gave him $21.25. Typing in what I'd given him, the cashier then appeared extremely confused when the register asked him to return $4.99 to me, the buyer. Seeing his confusion, I politely asked, "Oh, it was $16.26?" He replied, "Yes," so I reached into my pocket, pulled out a dime and handed it to him. At this, he grew even more confused and asked his colleague to pass him the store's calculator. Politely repressing the urge to scream at him, "YOU OWE ME FIVE DOLLARS AND NINE CENTS! $4.99 PLUS A SINGLE DIME EQUALS FIVE DOLLARS AND NINE CENTS," I waited, waited and waited as he tapped tapped tapped away on his calculator. Finally, he looked satisfied, reached into the register and handed me $5.04. Did I make a scene? Of course not. Who needs a nickel? Not everyone's good at math. Heck, I suck at almost everything so who am I to complain.

But the problem with CVS is that these are DRUGS we're dealing with -- medications. PEOPLES' LIVES. And this pharmacist was too stupid to use the computer or even find a medication on the shelf!? How could he possibly be trusted to mix the right drugs in the right amounts? Honestly, I should've just reported the store to CVS headquarters instead of shouting at a person who was clearly hired above his level, but the thought of a retarded baby popping out of my wife was agitating my nerves a bit.

The bottom line is this: don't use Durex condominiums. They're made from a thin layer of tissue paper.

This EP features five songs, two of which are live versions of Solid Gold tracks. Unfortunately, one of these is the much-dreaded "Cheeseburger" (though it IS fun to hear the band members reciting the fast food dialogue, rather than just playing the original samples). The other three are super-dance-a-thon great time party all night boogie down production "To Hell With Poverty," dubby feedback-drenched mood piece "History's Bunk!" and unfortunately-paced two-note "Capital (It Fails Us Now)" (whose beat skips from fast'n'dancey to slow'n'draggy in the middle of every single line!). These latter two songs are mixed quite interestingly, with multiple tracks of singing, talking, guitar feedback, noise and random note plucks all fighting for prominence above the rhythm track. So even an underwritten two-note song like "Capital" holds your attention - there's just so much going on!

Alas, though these tracks seemed to herald a new and even less conventional era for the band, bassist Dave Allen left the band shortly thereafter and they decided to go a whole different direction.

Did I say "direction"!? I of course meant "ERECTION!!!!."

(They hired some lady to replace Dave Allen. In interviews, they explained their decision as "a way to get boners onstage.")

Reader Comments
Hey Mark,

This is one of the few Gang of four records I have. I do like it. Jiang Qing’s vocals are a bit rough, what with her screaming at her trial, but she gets the point across. Likewise Wang Hongwen’s spidery guitar seems lacking in a man who hopes to succeed Mao Tse-Tung. No wonder Deng Xiao-Ping took him down later. It’s the rhythm section of Wenyan on drums and Chunqiao on bass which turn the album into a funky fuzzed monster. Chunqiao should have been the real leader and maybe the band would have prevailed in 1976. Instead Deng sells them to MTV. (Mark Becker)
Pharmacies stink, unless there's a leggy woman you can drool over as you wait.

I Love Another Day/Another Dollar. Cheeseburger is upbeat, fun, and has some good noise. What We All Want rocks my world. I do not normally dance, but I gotta move when I play this one. I like the brutal funky bass and the scratchy guitar and the vocals have a fine sense of desperation. Every time this song ends, I say "Whew". It's like a workout.

It's sad Dave Allen left after this one. What couldda been !

To Hell With Poverty I love also. I remember it being played in the clubs I used to go to in NYC iin the 80's a lot.

I saw them in Newark/Elizabeth when Sara Lee played bass. It was still very good. The 1st 2 songs featured Andy Gill on vocals (Paralyzed" and something else. All the while, there was a maniac in the crowd, and then he took the stage and sang. That would be Jon King. Much fun ensued. Nothing like playing guitar with a spilling beer on the frets.

ps- Sara Lee also played on the dopey wedding song "Love Shack", but more importantly, "League Of Gentlemen" a Fripp project from the mid 80's.

I wish you well with your job searches. Your wife must be an angel !

Add your thoughts?

The Peel Sessions - Dutch East India 1990
Rating = 7

Normally I'm "all about" Peel Sessions, but in Gang Of Four's case these alernate takes too often feel like blueprints for the final versions. The Entertainment tracks in particular suffer from slow tempos and off-key vocals. "Not Great Men" is so preposterously slow, it's embarrassing! Jon even has time to sing "HISTORY'S not made by great men," rather than just "IT'S" like any normal person would do! And I enjoy that he attempts to sing "I Found That Essence Rare" in a lower and calmer register, but he misses the high notes as badly as a really shitty tennis Coach misses a tennis ball! At one point near the end, his voice actually cracks, as if he were a really shitty tennis Coach asking a girl to go to a tennis game with him! Then you've got "To Hell With Poverty," whose exuberant 'OH! OH! OH! OWWWWWW!' disco shouts are conducted in low bored voices, as if the BBC librarian asked them to cut out the shitty tennis playing because other kids were trying to study!

8 Entertainment, 2 Another Day, Another Dollar and 1 Solid Gold track -- still great songs (hence the low 7 -- a 6 would just seem WAY too low for a track listing like this), but about half of them performed as if they couldn't be bothered to not be a shitty tennis Coach! Come on guys, put some effort into it! Is that too much to ask? A little goddamned EFFORT!?

Guy Who Only Writes Five Reviews A Week, And This Is One Of Them

Reader Comments

This is the only Go4 album I listen to; I have this on CD but have Entertainment on vinyl. This serves as a pretty good "greatest hits" album, and I do like the versions here a little better - they just seem a bit more raw, which I like. Really though, there are only 3 Gang of Four songs I like much, and they're all here: "Ether", "Essence", and "Paralysed". Apart from that, this band feels very monotonous to me, even at their peak (i.e. Entertainment).

I hope the intestinal gas of good fortune floats your way again soon.

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Songs Of The Free - Warner Bros. 1982
Rating = 6

And this must be where J.J. Jackson introduced the band to MTV because wheeeoooooo do these songs sound tailormade for mass audience consumption. Rarely does one run across a band whose third album is such a dramatic departure from their first two. Where Entertainment! sounded like a bunch of college know-it-alls and Solid Gold sounded like depressed pot-smoking experimenters, Songs Of The Free sounds like a band trying really hard to record a hit record. Determined to maintain their political integrity while (probably) having grown tired of being an underground art-punk band, they're no longer uptight, preachy, smug, laid back, humble or depressed, but accessible, mainstream and contemporary. This feeling comes through especially in the music, which -- far from the tight compositions of Entertainment! or abstract skrankling of Solid Gold -- is basically split between dark danceable post-punk and terrible white-man pseudo-funk.

First things first -- do not under any circumstances purchase the original vinyl version of this album. The drums are so loud, trebly and reverbed that they bury the other instruments and literally render the last three songs on side one unlistenable. This has been corrected on the CD - or at least on the version that I have. The drums are still corny in that gigantic '80s way, but at least you can hear how the songs are supposed to go!

Secondly, no matter which version you pick up, prepare yourself for some of the most confusing, misguided and off-key vocal melodies you will ever hear. I assume they were purposely trying to write vocal hooks that are more traditionally 'musical' than those on their earlier records, but - as demonstrated most risibly in "We Live As We Dream, Alone" and "It Is Not Enough," a vocalist who is incapable of hitting easy notes is probably better off not venturing into areas better suited for Freddie Mercury or George Michael. I swear, every time I hear Jon King singing what he apparently feels are appropriate notes (or even notes that make any sense at all) during the verses of "We Live As We Dream, Alone," my lower jaw nearly separates from my face in order to hit the floor. What in fuck is he doing!? Does he not realize that he's like an entire key off what the instruments are playing? Or that he himself shifts keys dramatically between the first and second verse, while the music remains unchanged!? It's like listening to a deaf man sing karaoke! And not even a SEXY deaf man like Lou Ferrigno, but a vomitous put-a-bag-over-your-head grossass deaf man like Marlee Matlin.

And in conclusion, sorry if you liked Andy Gill's scratchy guitar because now he's playing like an early '80s The Edge-type guy with the ringing and echoes and such. It sounds correct in context though, believe me; his assaultive earlier style would've quashed their commercial goals in a heartboat.

Joining the original Gang Of Three is new bassist Sara Lee, who contributes both funky slap bass and soulful female vocals to the mix. But don't believe those people who tell you that Songs Of The Free is where Gang Of Four 'went funk-disco' or 'started sounding like Chic' or whatever. Yes, there are a few crummy funk songs on here (specifically "Muscle For Brains" and "It Is Not Enough"), but the overriding mood of the album is dark. Sometimes the vocals are inappropriately 'hip' and 'funkee fresh' -- most notably in the otherwise eerie and menacing harmonics/feedback wash of "The History Of The World" -- but more than half of these songs are both musically and lyrically threatening, frightened, angry and/or hopeless. "Call Me Up" and "I Love A Man In A Uniform" may sound like dance club monsters, but their guitar and bass riffs are buried in post-punk darkness, not bathed in disco light. And King has never come up with a melodica hook anywhere near as creepy as the one that permeates "I Will Be A Good Boy."

Mixing philosophical concerns with the usual Marxism, GO4's lyrical concerns this time out include: shallowness ("Having fun is my reason for living!"); the masculine myth of the military ("I had to regain my self respect, so I got into camouflage"); the unavoidable isolation of existence ("To crack the shell, we mix with the others"); the tragic, wasted life of the average housewife ("Passion, it burns me up. It isn't how I thought it would be. I have to wait for the right moment; it always depends on him"); greed among those in power ("To act for the good for congressman is money/The right to get rich is in the constitution/Talk of corruption is to preach insurrection"); the rewards of conformity ("Good, yes, you've done well/Here is a small prize - the history of the world"); the intractable push of organized religion ("For reasons that are not mysterious, morality's used as a tool/The poor are told to be contented, but in this life they've no choice at all"); manifesting the commune ("We're manifesting the commune. ROPE A DOPE!"); and sucking one's ass because it smells ("Suck my ass it smells!").

I wish I could give this record a higher grade because I really do love all five of the brooding, darker songs. Unfortunately, the just-okay "Life! It's A Shame" sounds like an INXS ballad, and (much more damagingly) "We Live As We Dream, Alone," "It Is Not Enough" and "Muscle For Brains" are the harbingers of a clunky, tuneless soul/funk shitvalanche that was careening downhill towards the band at 400 MPH and preparing to hit them HARD!

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Hard - Warner Bros. 1983
Rating = 3

And this must be where George Michael introduced the band to NAMBLA because this is the faggiest fag album in Fagville, New Fagland, and as you know all gay people are child molesters.

If you thought Wire turned to shit after three albums, wait'll you hear THIS!

Yeah, HARD to listen to!!! (see The Who's It's Hard)

This album is a scourge upon all fine nations. Drummer Hugo Burnham has been fired for not writing enough songs or something, leaving the Gang Of Two with Sara Lee and a fake drummer to devote their finest songwriting energies to boring, girly dance-funk-pop and clunky-beated r'n'b garbage. How did their musical tastes devolve from aggressive political post-punk to lite-dance sissy music within a span of four years? Honestly, this has got to be ABC or Rick Astley or something. They sing in falsetto, for Christ's sake! And there are disco string flourishes and fake horns! And song titles like "Is It Love," "A Piece Of My Heart" and "Woman Town"! This can't be happening. I'm dead. That's it; I'm dead and this is the Devil's hilarious way of torturing me. Next he'll play me the Ramones' smooth jazz CD and the first six Van Halen albums re-recorded with Sammy Hagar.

There are very few highlights, but I'll acknowledge that Andy Gill plays some eerie, lovely and bizarre (respectively) ear-tickling harmonics in "It Don't Matter" (before its E.L.O.-disco chorus), "Arabic" (if you can hear them under the ass-stupid "Hoo hoo - UGHGHH!" vocals) and "A Man With A Good Car" (but Jesus Christ, what is up with that undanceable clunka-clunk beat!?). Furthermore, the dark arpeggiated "Silver Lining" would have been a perfect Song Of The Free if not for the Glee Club happy cheer of a chorus they wrote for it. As for the rest of the album, forget it. Even Andy is wasted, mostly just funk-a-diddling throwaway two-note rhythm crap.

So with that in mind, let's you and I come up with some light-hearted riddles to celebrate the release of The Warner Brothers' Hard LP on Gang Of Four Records:

What's the difference between listening to Hard and saddening the Roman Catholic Church?
One requires shooting the Pope - the other requires shooting some dope!

What's the difference between listening to Hard and dying of a gunshot wound?
If you're lucky, you can die of a gunshot wound in half the time!

What's the difference between listening to Hard and getting AIDS?
It's EASY to get AIDS!

What's the difference between listening to Hard and suffering from Alzheimer's Disease?
One causes your mind to slowly decay and rot away, and the other is a disease called 'Alzheimer's Disease'!

What's the difference between Hard and the Holocaust?
The Holocaust only killed SIX million Jews!

Wait, this is getting sad all of a sudden. We were having a great time and now suddenly we're all crying. Let me try one more, to try to make us happy again like we belong:

What's the difference between Hard and a sunny day?
A sunny day is a wonderful gift, with family, friends and a couple of bunny rabbits scampering around. And Hard keeps raping little girls.

Reader Comments
What's the difference between hard and dark?

It stays dark all night.

A 68-year old told me that.
Hah! Thank god for this album! Now I can finally listen to an album on Spotify that makes me positively welcome the annoying adverts/commercials that come every 15mins. For once they offer a welcome reprieve.

Strange to think that this band would encompass, arguably both the best (post-punk) and worst (synth pop) styles of the eighties. And all before 1985! They really must have been Spandau Ballet fans, no?

I got a bit excited about seeing them last year at All Tomorrow's Parties until I realized that they were going to (a) play without the original bass player and (b) include material from the third and fourth albums. :(

Ah god make it stop!

Add your thoughts?

At The Palace - Mercury 1984
Rating = 5

My email box is overflowing this week and not in the good sexting way either but with letters from upset readers exclaiming, "Where have all the poop jokes gone? Long time passing.... Where have all the poop jokes gone? Long time ago. Where have all the poop jokes gone? Young girls picked them everyone. Oh when will they ever learn? Oh when will they ever learn?" Yes, it's no secret that most of you readers are here not for my dubious insights (ex. "The Kinks didn't just pioneer Britpop and heavy metal; they also invented grindcore, electricity and The Beatles") but for my winning way with a poop joke. I admit I've been a bit lazy with the poop jokes lately, but I intend to become EX-LAX (har har!) and DUMP (har har!) a PILE (har har!) of great new POOP (har h no wait) jokes on you right now, you PIECE OF SHIT (har har!).

Why did the poop cross the road?
He was inside the chicken! (The chicken was a coprophagist.)

How many poops does it take to change a light bulb?
It depends on how brown you want the lighting to be!

What's the difference between a poop and an Elvis Costello cd?
One belongs in the toilet, and the other sometimes has bits of corn in it!

What's the difference between a poop and a member of Fall Out Boy?
A poop comes OUT your ass!

Manager: Well, let's see, we have on the bags, Poop's on first, Fuck's on second, Ass Dildo is on third...
Coach: That's what I want to find out.
Manager: I say Poop's on first, Fuck's on second, Ass Dildo is on third...
Coach: I heard you, Mr. Foul Mouth. Are you the manager?
Manager: Yes.
Coach: And you don't know the fellows' names?
Manager: Well, I should.
Coach: Well then, who's on first?
Manager: Poop.
Coach: I mean the fellow's name, not what he does there.
Manager: Poop.
Coach: The guy on first takes a crap there. I understand that. But what's his name?
Manager: Poop.
Coach: Are you asking me to poop? Right now?
Manager: Poop.
Coach: Okay. NNNNNNNNN! (*poops*)
Manager: Poop is on first!
Coach: Well, now poop is in my sock too.
Manager: That's the man's name.
Coach: That's who's name?
Manager: Poop.
Coach: I just did. That's all I had.
Manager: That's it.
Coach: Yes, that's it.
Manager: Yes.
Coach: Look, you got a first baseman?
Manager: Certainly.
Coach: Who's playing first?
Manager: Poop.
Coach: When you pay off the first baseman every month, who gets the money?
Manager: Poop gets every dollar of it.
Coach: I don't care if he spends it on feces. Sometimes we all do. All I'm trying to find out is the fellow's name on first base.
Manager: Poop.
Coach: The guy that gets...
Manager: That's it.
Coach: Who gets the money...
Manager: Poop does, every dollar. Sometimes his wife comes down and collects it.
Coach: Poop's wife!?
Manager: Yes.: What's wrong with that?
Coach: What the hell kind of woman marries a poop!? Look, all I wanna know is when you sign up the first baseman, how does he sign his name?
Manager: Poop.
Coach: He signs his name in his own POOP!?
Manager: Poop.
Coach: He signs in poop?
Manager: That's how he signs it.
Coach: Poop?
Manager: Yes.
Coach: All I'm trying to find out is what the fuck the guy's name is on first base.
Manager: No. Fuck is on second base.
Coach: I'm not asking you who's on second.
Manager: Poop's on first.
Coach: The second basement poops on first base too?
Manager: Hey, don't change the players around.
Coach: I'm not changing nobody!
Manager: Take it easy, buddy.
Coach: I'm only asking you, who's the guy on first base?
Manager: Poop.
Coach: Okay. NNNNN! (*poops again*)
Manager: All right.
Coach: What the fuck is the guy's name on first base?
Manager: No. Fuck is on second.
Coach: I'm not asking you who's on second.
Manager: Poop's on first.
Coach: You ass dildo.
Manager: He's on third, we're not talking about him.
Coach: Now how did I get on third base?
Manager: Why, you mentioned his name.
Coach: If I mentioned the third baseman's name, who did I say is playing third?
Manager: I don't know, but Poop's on first.
Coach: Who the fuck is on first?
Manager: Fuck's on second.
Manager: He's on third.
Coach: There I go, back on third again! Would you just stay on third base and don't go off it?
Manager: All right, what do you want to know?
Coach: Now who the poop is playing third base?
Manager: Why do you insist on putting Poop on third base?
Coach: Who the fuck is pooping on third?
Manager: No. Fuck is on second.
Coach: You don't want poop on second?
Manager: Poop is on first.
Coach: You ass dildo.
Manager & Coach Together:Third base!
Coach: Look, you got a outfield?
Manager: Sure.
Coach: The left fielder's name?
Manager: Diarrhea.
Coach: I just thought I'd ask you.
Manager: Well, I just thought I'd tell ya.
Coach: So there's liquid poop in left field?
Manager: Poop's playing first.
Coach: I'm not... stay out of the infield! I want to know the fucking guy's name in left field!
Manager: No, Fuck is on second.
Coach: Look, you keep this up and I'm gonna have to poop again in a second!
Manager: Poop's on first.
Coach: You ass dildo!
Manager & Coach Together: Third base!
Coach: The left fielder's name?
Manager: Diarrhea.
Coach: Right now? But that'll upset my hemorrhoid.
Manager: Oh, he's centerfield.
Coach: Look, You gotta pitcher on this team?
Manager: Sure.
Coach: The pitcher's name?
Manager: Hole In The Tip Of Your Penis.
Coach: You don't want to tell me to my ear?
Manager: I'm telling you now.
Coach: Then go ahead.
Manager: Hole In The Tip Of Your Penis.
Coach: Okay, one second. (*unzips pants*) Okay, go ahead.
Manager: Go ahead what?
Coach: Go ahead and tell me who's pitching so I can go poop!
Manager: Now listen. Poop is not pitching.
Coach: I'll break your arm, you say poop's on first! I want to know the fucking pitcher's name!
Manager: Fuck's on second.
Manager & Coach Together: Third base!
Coach: Got a catcher?
Manager: Certainly.
Coach: The catcher's name?
Manager: Uncircumcised Phallus<.br> Coach: Uncircumcised phallus and the hole in the tip of your penis is pitching.
Manager: Now you've got it.
Coach: All we got is a couple of dickheads on the team. You know I'm a catcher too.
Manager: So they tell me.
Coach: I get behind the plate to do some fancy catching, The hole in the tip of your penis is pitching on my team and a heavy hitter gets up. Now the heavy hitter bunts the ball. When he bunts the ball, me, being a good catcher, I'm gonna throw the guy out at first base. So I pick up the ball and throw it to who? A pile of poop?
Manager: Now that's the first thing you've said right.
Coach: I don't even know what I'm talking about!
Manager: That's all you have to do.
Coach: Is to throw the ball to first base.
Manager: Yes!
Coach: Actually, I gotta go poop.
Manager: Naturally.
Coach: Look, if I throw the ball to first base, somebody's gotta get it. But first, I gotta go poop.
Manager: Naturally.
Coach: Poop?
Manager: Naturally.
Coach: Naturally?
Manager: Naturally.
Coach: So I pick up the ball and I throw it to Naturally.
Manager: No you don't, you throw the ball to Poop.
Coach: I can't poop until after I've thrown the ball!? But I really have to go!
Manager: That's different.
Coach: That's what I'm saying!
Manager: You're not saying it...
Coach: I throw the ball to Naturally.
Manager: You throw it to Poop.
Coach: Naturally.
Manager: That's it.
Coach: That's what I said!
Manager: You ask me.
Coach: I throw the ball to poop?
Manager: Naturally.
Coach: Now you ask me.
Manager: You throw the ball to Poop?
Coach: Naturally.
Manager: That's it.
Coach: Same as you! Same as YOU! I throw the ball to poop! Then whoever it is drops the ball and the guy runs to second. So as I poop, I pick up the ball and throw it to whoever the fuck is on second. Then that fuck throws it to some ass dildo on third. This ass dildo throws it back up the tip in the hole of your penis - triple play. Another guy gets up and hits a long fly ball to some guy with a hemmorhoid. How'd he get it -- from an ass dildo? He's on third, and they're all a bunch of faggots!
Manager: What?
Coach: I said they're all a bunch of faggots!
Manager: Oh, that's our shortstop.

Yes, good old poop jokes. They do a body good!

As for this live album, it features four songs from Songs Of The Free, three Entertainment, two Hard and one each from Solid Gold and Another Day, Another Dollar. The recording is an abomination. It starts off just muffled, monophonic and damp-sounding, but by track seven the tape has deteriorated to the point where each loud noise results in a high-pitched squeak overtaking the entire performance. If you're familiar with the Misfits' Evilive, you know this high-pitched squeak. Here, it mars "Damaged Goods" and renders "To Hell With Poverty" absolutely unlistenable. Then suddenly, they come up to encore with "Call Me Up," and the tape sounds as crisp, strong and alive as the finest studio recording! Was it a bonus track recorded elsewhere? Why on Earth did they release such a miserably recorded show anyway!? Is this honestly the best tape they could find? Did they even listen to it before putting it out? But enough of me and my rhetorical questions. What good has a rhetorical question ever done? What's the point of a rhetorical question if you're not supposed to answer it? Would our lives be dramatically different if people suddenly began answering rhetorical questions? These are all important questions to which scientists will hopefully some day find an answer.

But in the meantime, why is there no stage patter? Who's drumming? Why couldn't they have played the studio version of "We Live As We Dream Alone" in this killer scrapy-guitar/speedy rock manner? Why did they perform "Paralysed" as a straightforward rock song, removing the depressed non-starter mood that made the original version effective in the first place? And most importantly, why in God's Green Hell does the audience cheer with excited recognition during the opening notes of bucket of vomit "Is It Love"!? Is The Palace some sort of school for retarded children? If so, that was a nice thing you did, Gang Of Four, playing your music for those special young people. Or as Sarah Palin calls them, "our world’s most precious and unique people." And she's right! If only we could all be retarded, what a precious and unique world it would be! Sure, humanity would die out within one generation due to our inability to differentiate a vagina from a navel, but man! Talk about precious!

And unique? Oh, don't even get me STARTED on unique!

Reader Comments

I've never heard this album and don't really want to, but I just had to commend you for your brilliant "who's on first" parody. Ha!

Add your thoughts?

Mall - Polydor 1991
Rating = 1

"One" by Three Dog Night

One is the lowest-ass grade that I could ever give
Two isn't as bad as one
It's a shitty-ass grade, but hey it still beats one

Mall is a lousy CD that sounds like EMF
What audience were they going for? The completely deaf?
'Cause Mall is a corny funk album filled with MOR soul
Mall is a rotten reunion that can smoke a pole

They're just no good anymore since they fired the drummer
I keep expecting Kenny G's horn to show up and make it even dumber

One is the appropriate rating
One is the appropriate rating
One is the appropriate rating
For this pile of spew
One is the appropriate rating
One is the appropriate rating
One is the appropriate rating
I'd rather drink piss from a shoe

"One" by U2

One point, one star
One CD that you don't want in your car
One bad idea after another you'll find
This seriously came out the same year as Nevermind!?

"One" by Metallica

I can't remember anything
Not a note they play or word they sing
Deep down inside I feel to scream
This terrible album sucks it
I can't believe it's Gang Of Four
It sounds like Hall & Oates a lot more
Or Duran Duran after they'd grown poor
Nothing is good at all now

Hold my ears and sing Tears For Fears
Oh please God help me!

Back in my room, it's much too clear
In pumps cess that I must hear
I'll resist the urge to call it queer
That'd be an insult to my gay friends
Kinda sounds like U2's "The Fly"
And Nile Rodgers - remember that fucken guy?
I guess their George Michael fetish will never die
Take this horse shit from me

Hold my ears and drink sixteen beers
Oh please God help me!

Now the album's done, it's a one
Oh God, thank you
Kneel to pray as I throw it away
Oh yes God, thank you!

and "World Falls Apart"!
Not a single good part!
Absolute horse shit!
"Satellite" blows!
"Cadillac"'s dung!
"Don't Fix What Ain't Broke"?
Were more ironic words ever sung!?

"Hey Yeah"!
"Fuck Me U.S.A."!
They're so fucking gay!
(Don't tell my gay friends)
They've got no hooks!
They've got no riffs!
They've got no point!
Mall? More like Go To Hell!!!!

"Still The One" by Orleans

Still a one
With no good songs
Still a one
That sucks eight dongs
Mall's just Andy and Jon
And it's still a one.

"Mall review" by Ira Robbins, Rolling Stone, August 8th, 1991

Unlike most of the defunct groups that have reunited lately, the Gang of Four conveys a positive sense of purpose – unfinished business rather than unpaid bills – on the bracing Mall, the innovative band's first new studio album in seven years. A decade before funk-fired rock became trendy, these British radicals bucked the roaring punk tide to underline their stinging ferocity with dance rhythms, winning feet and minds with hard beats, shattering guitar bursts and articulate leftist thought. Now that rocking dance music is postpunk's leading currency, guitarist Andy Gill and singer Jon King – the songwriting half of the original Leeds quartet – have boldly stepped off the pedestal of punk-era legend to rejoin the musical race, making a welcome and credible contribution to a movement they helped create.

Working with guest drummers, bassists and vocalists, King and Gill have wisely avoided the trap of playing stylistic catch-up with today's trendsetters. Following the duo's own advice of "Don't Fix What Ain't Broke" (a blistering new chant-song that strongly resembles the Gang's classic "I Love a Man in a Uniform"), Mall basically proceeds from Songs of the Free (1982), updating and expanding the sound without compromising the band's essence.

An adventurous, often gripping album that flirts with commercial appeal while indicting American consumer culture, Mall more than justifies the Gang's return to active duty. The belated Vietnam War tableau "F.M.U.S.A." serves as the record's devastating centerpiece, intercutting spoken recollections by a Vietnamese woman who "lived in tunnels... I was married, and very happy... I dream too, Yankee" and a soldier "from Detroit, Motor City ... hunting that Saigon Poontang ... stoned out of our fucking trees" with melodic narration, cinematic sound effects and free-fire guitar strikes. Other tracks deliver equally substantial messages that match the exciting music: "Money Talks" parodies supermarket-tabloid headlines and calls General Noriega "a pineapple on the U.S. payroll," while the poetic "World Falls Apart" outlines a grim portrait of the homeless. Ironically, some of the strongest-sounding tracks pack the least verbal punch. The opening track, "Cadillac," drives with industrial power, but its disconnected collection of hip haiku doesn't add up to anything; likewise, the litany of idealistic beliefs listed in "Colour From the Tube" are intriguing but collectively pointless. Despite such flaws, however, Mall is a triumphant resurrection, returning a potent and progressive musical force to power.

4 stars out of 5

Add your thoughts?

Tattoo EP - Castle 1995
Rating = 4

"I don't understand," one can't help but think. "What in the hell happened to my favorite band The Gang Of Four From Britainway?" It's always difficult as an outsider to understand how a band capable of pure audio genius can deteriorate into something worse than death over the course of its career. In some cases, drugs or limited creativity are the culprit. But in other cases, it's simply a matter of human interaction. For example -- and believe me, I have no evidence to support this, and am totally making it up, but -- what if Jon King and Andy Gill were always into fruity sissy dance-pop? Maybe they'd had a hankering since day one to prance around like stupid little fairies playing shit music for crap people, but knew that their hard-edged punk rock buddies Dave Allen and Hugo Burnham would've laughed and called them "a fag," so instead they only presented their more 'rock' compositions in rehearsal. This would certainly explain why their music went so outrageously fey once Allen and Burnham were both gone from the line-up.

And please understand -- I'm pro-homosexual. When I throw out words like "sissy," "fag" and "fairies," I'm using them not as lifestyle slurs but as insults for wimpy music. 2/3rds of Husker Du were homosexual, and their early music kicked more ass than most straight bands ever will! (Plus Big Boys, Dicks, Dead Milkmen, Happy Flowers, Judas Priest and many many others) So please don't take offense if you're homosexual. On the other hand, if you're a fan of the albums Hard and Mall, you may want to take offense.

On another note, people are constantly asking me, "Mark, we need more information about this Henry The Dog to whom you often refer. Could you please assist us in our time of need endeavor?"

Of CORPSE I can! Here is some information about Henry The Dog for you to enjoy and share with others.

1. "Wanna go SWIMMING!?"
2. "Want me to open your door?" (so he can go on the terrace and bark at the kitty cat next door)
3. "Are you hungry? Do you want your breakfast?" (also works for "lunch" and "dinner")
4. "Wanna go to PetCo?"
5. "RACCOON!" (in Central Park at night, while hunting raccoons)
6. "Here comes a dog!" (he likes to sniff dogs on the street, as we all do)
7. "Look, it's your friend!" (whenever I see somebody he knows)
8. "Wanna be a Jog Dog?"
9. "Want some PIZZAR? And DESSERT? It's gonna go 'cling-cling-cling-AAAAAHHHHH!'" (that's the sound of the Domino's delivery person chaining up their bicycle and buzzing our buzzer)
10. "Mommy's on her way home!"

1. "Do you wanna wear your COAT!?"
2. "NO treat lady!" (meaning he can't go visit this old woman who always gives him five billion treats against my wishes)
3. "It's raining" (he doesn't mind rain, but is very scared of thunder, with which he associates the word 'rain')
4. "You need a bath"
5. "FUCK!" (this upsets him, so he walks over and gives you a kiss to calm you down)
6. "Do you want the BAD LEASH!?" (he hates his Gentle Leader, so we use it as a threat when he's misbehaving)

1. "WOOF!"
2. "Har." (no clue what this funny little noise is, but it's adorable. Maybe he's trying to say "Henry"?)
3. "Eeeeeeeee!" (annoying high-pitched whine)
4. "Ribble!" (when I hold up a piece of kibble and ask "What's it called?")
5. "Heh heh heh - URP." (laughing/panting followed by a burp)
6. "Burf! Burf!" (barking while having an exciting dream)
7. "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" (he howls when he hears a fire truck)
8. "Grrrrrrrr" (usually when a small, energetic dog annoys him)

1. Swimming (most often in the East River, from Wards Island)
2. Eating
3. Scavenging food off the sidewalk
4. Hunting raccoons in Central Park at night
5. Grabbing a sock and throwing it around the room
6. Walking around the upper east side sniffing urine
7. Going to pet stores (PetCo, Furry Paws, Petland, etc)
8. Going to the Carl Schurz Dog Run to hump other dogs
9. Fishing (most often in a creek/waterfall area in Central Park)
10. Going on vacation (every year we take him on a summer swimming vacation and winter snow vacation)

On another note, people are constantly asking me, "Mark, review the fucken record already." So let's get around to that at some point.

The release of the Tattoo EP made two things clear: (a) Jon and Andy finally realized that their fan base prefers guitar rock to dance-pop, and (b) their next album probably wasn't going to be all that great. This lead-off single, "Tattoo," has a beautiful fuzzy warm chorus ("When you discover my name, I'll tattoo it on your heart"), but the rest of the song is INXSy hipster crap. Three basic bass notes and overdriven guitar noise. The lyric concept is pretty smart -- apparently it's from the point of view of a serial killer! -- but the music is so much sniggardlyfligger. If this was the best they had to offer for a comeback single, it was pretty clear that Shrinkwrapped was likely to be a mix of (a) songs with one good part, and (b) songs with fewer than one good part.

The remainder of the EP comprises: a dance remix of "Tattoo" that ruins the chorus and is mostly a repetitive bore; a chintzy electro-pop nothing buried under loud vibrating guitar distortion; and a witty self-deprecating piece in which the Gang Of Two discuss words that they will no longer use in their lyrics -- including "Heaven," "the world," "words ending in -ion," "dollars," "freedom," "history," and "work." As Jon points out, "Well, it's a well-trodden path, isn't it." I'd have thrown in "pleasure," myself, but you know me! Ol' Stinky Jim! That's my name! Ol' Stinky Jim!

(My name's not really "Ol' Stinky Jim," but don't tell that to all the seXXXy laydEEEz who think they're making whoopie with top NASCAR sensation "Ol' Stinky Jim.")

Vroom vroom! This is Ol' Stinky Jim, driving his NASCAR car around a NASCAR track! Free mustache rides! Vrooooooooom!

Add your thoughts?

Shrinkwrapped - Castle 1995
Rating = 5

I'd like to ask all unmarried persons to please skip the next paragraph, as it doesn't pertain to you. Thank you for your understanding.

Now that it's just us married folk, I have a hilarious anecdote to relate to your person. You know how married people sometimes do "married things" that unmarried people don't know about and certainly wouldn't be able to understand? Well, a few weeks ago, my wife and I were doing a "married thing" and when I reached the end (or "crisis") of my "married thing," I asked my wife whether she too had reached cessation (or "peak") of her "married thing." "No," she replied. A concerned and sensitive type, I enquired, "What are you, a fucken lesbo?" "No," she responded, and told me a hilarious tale of what ruined her "married thing." You know how married people sometimes engage in a form of "pillow talk" when engaged in a "married thing" with their lawfully wedded in the eyes of God marriage partner? Apparently my wife had misheard two pieces of my "pillow talk" and thought I had exclaimed, "Wife!.... Orgasm!" Admittedly, that would have been a hilarious thing to shout upon reaching one's conclusion (or "climax") of "married thing," but I assure you that I did no such thing. Maybe "Oh yeah" or "Oh God" or something, but certainly not "Wife!.... Orgasm!" However, due to the hilarity of said incident, from now on if I answer the phone and the caller asks, "Can I speak to Mrs. Prindle please?," I'm going to respond, "Mrs. Prindle!? I don't know a -- oh! You mean 'Wife Orgasm'! Hang on, I'll get her." I invite you to do the same, when people and assholes call your house for surveys or to tell you a loved one is dead or some shit, the fuckers.

Okay, all the unmarried persons are back in the room so let's get back to topics that unmarried people can enjoy too. Like Gang Of Four's 1995 Shrinkwrapped CD! As suggested by the Tattoo EP, the entire disc alternates between "hip" (one person's idea of hip, anyway -- certainly not mine) INXS-style sunglasses-wearing simplistic two-note MTV dancey rock and superior moody guitar pieces. Though it's wonderful to hear Andy and Jon finally return to guitar-based music for the first time in 9,000 years, too many of the passages reek of Manchester-style attitude poseur Bull S___.

There are several strong ideas here, but they are matched step-by-step with noticably bone-headed ones. I've already mentioned "Tattoo"'s pairing of a gorgeous haunting chorus with a boastful happy-dance shit verse, so let me share a few other examples:

GOOD IDEA! "Unburden," an emotional guitar arpeggio accompanied by a lonely man speaking philosophically to a woman on a Sex Hotline. She has no clue what he's talking about, so just goes about her business, trying to turn him on. He eventually realizes the hopelessness of trying to achieve actual human contact, and hangs up.

BAD IDEA! "Unburden Unbound," in which Andy and Jon pat each other on the back and non-humbly discuss the brilliant concept behind "Unburden."

GOOD IDEA! "Showtime, Valentine," with its menacing, creaky three-chord guitar riff.

BAD IDEA! The last two minutes of "Showtime, Valentine," which replace the menacing guitar riff with ugliness, feedback, garbage and more repulsive 'cool guy' vocals.

GOOD IDEA! "I Parade Myself," a brooding, driving rocker with clanging guitar break.

BAD IDEA! "The Dark Ride," a disgusting hookless wah-wah-drenched tuff guy vomit feast of Michael Hutchence choking on his own sperm. Did you know Michael Hutchence choked to death on his own sperm? It's true. It happens about 2/3rds of the way through this putrid song.

GOOD IDEA! "I Absolve You," a drumless display of sorrowful guitar interplay that truly resonates.

BAD IDEA! Realizing that "I Absolve You" is basically "867-5309" with different lyrics.

I don't know. People will like what they like, and should. This isn't a bad album by any means. It just strikes me as one whose creative and compelling moments are equalled by annoying and/or derivative ones. But one thing's for certain: it beats all hell's living daylight todays and tomorrows out of Mall and Hard!

Add your thoughts?

100 Flowers Bloom - Rhino 1998
Rating = 6

Look, I'm all in favor of bad track listings, but who exactly is this double-CD geared towards? Long-time fans will already own the 23 songs that were pulled directly from the studio records, and those seeking a greatest hits compilation will hardly benefit from the eight live recordings, four dance remixes and four alternate versions that soil the waters of destiny. In fact, the only thing we can ALL agree on is that "Producer" (from the "I Love A Man In A Uniform" 12") is a hilarious song! Lyrics include "'I don't hear songs,' says he. 'Just sounds!'" and "I take my songs to the marketplace/You can hear them say, 'Lies on sale!'" Good old bitchy young Gang Of Four and their ideals.

Taking into account all the inferior alternate versions, 100 Flowers Bloom's contents represent nine Entertainment! tracks, seven each from Solid Gold and Songs Of The Free, five Shrinkwrapped, three each from Hard and Mall (and that's PLENTY, thanks), the Yellow and Another Day/Another Dollar EPS in their entireties, and that delightful "Producer" song I mentioned above.

Unfortunately, even within these parameters, the track listing is so misconceived that it includes such dumbfounding choices as:

- "Unburden Unbound".... but not "Unburden"! So you get to hear Jon and Andy talk about this great song "Unburden" they've written, but FUCK YOU if you want to hear how the song goes!

- "Tattoo.......REMIX!"

- "Woman Town" - Without exception the most embarrassing song in the band's entire embarrassing catalog, this song finds Andy "Tonedeaf Low Voice" Gill trying to sing sexily. Whether it's meant as irony or not, it SOUNDS LIKE AN ASS DROPPING A SHIT ON YOUR EAR. I apologize for the titillating imagery.

- "I Parade Myself.......CATWALK CLUB MIX!"

- A live shambling mess version of the already clunky "He'd Send In The Army"

- Anything at all from Mall, but especially "Fuck Me U.S.A.," which takes a depressing and unflinching look at the relationship between (and similarities of) African-American soldiers and Asian prostitutes during the Vietnam War -- while boogying down happily to a seXXXy Disco beat!

Oops. I was just informed that I'm going to be on Fox News' Red Eye tomorrow, so I guess I should find something to talk about. In the meantime, here's a knock-knock joke:

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Gang of Four
Gang of Four who?
Gang of Foreskins. We're uncircumcised and this is our turf!

Say, that was pretty hilarious. I'll have to use that on Fox News' Red Eye tomorrow.

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Return The Gift - V2 2005
Rating = 7

Man A: "Sorry I'm a little slow today. I haven't eaten in 24 hours."
Man B: "Oh, are you fasting?"
Man A: "I just said I was SLOW!"

Okay, my Red Eye appearance was postponed until Tuesday (I was bumped for Def Leppard), so now I can relax and tell you some more hilarious jokes.

Q: How many members of Gang Of Four does it take to change a light bulb?
A: All four! One to replace the bulb, one to accuse him of exploiting the ladder in order to achieve a temporary state of bulb-empowered pleasure, one to point out that a new bulb will only pacify the masses into accepting their position on the lowest rung of the state's power structure, and one to write a shitty dance-pop song called "Light Bulb."

Q: Why did Gang Of Four cross the road?
A: They didn't mean to; they had no idea it would be so offended by "A Man With A Good Car"!

Q: What do you get when you cross Gang Of Four with a cup of yogurt?
A: A shitty dance-pop song about our conformist lactobacillus culture.

Good old jokes. Why don't they all go fuck off and die?

Blowing everybody's minds (and a few lucky contest winners' penises), the original Gang Of Four line-up reunited in the 21st Century and announced that a new album was in the making! Then they couldn't think of any good songs and just released this bunch of re-recordings. Don't fret though; it's certainly a good bunch of re-recordings, covering six songs from Entertainment!, four from Solid Gold and two each from Another Day/Another Dollar and Songs Of The Free. The recording is fantastic with extremely crisp drums, loud guitar and audible bass, and it's a treat to hear half of Entertainment! performed by a singer who doesn't sound like he's sitting on a flagpole.

My only problem is with some of the song choices. You'd think by sticking to their good records, they'd be able to easily come up with a set of 14 great songs. So what in Samnation Alley are "He'd Send In The Army" and "Capital (It Fails Us Now)" doing on here!? Do people actually like those songs!? If so, an explanation is in order because they just sound like sloppy, fatigue-ridden clumps of half-written funk rock to me. I'm also not exactly sold on "Why Theory?," which takes a menacing melodica hook and surrounds it with a bunch of fluffernuttery balderdash.

Furthermore, as powerful a recording as "Paralyzed" was on Solid Gold, that is not a track that can be performed twice. Like Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized," its haunting resonance is based on how genuine the emotions expressed in the recording feel to the listener. Every other performance of the song is doomed to fail because to treat it like a 'song' is to miss the entire point: its deadening, heart-numbing aura of unconquerable depression cannot be replicated.

Another aspect that might affect some listener's enjoyment of the disc is Andy Gill's vocal performance. Because (a) his voice is ridiculously low now, (b) he mostly just speaks his lines, and (c) he places his mouth directly on top of the mic, he sounds more like a voice-over narrator than a vocalist. This is particularly the case in "Anthrax," wherein his (enjoyably) updated explanation of the lyrics is now about three times louder than Jon King's actual vocals.

Other than those minor quibbles, this is a reunion to cherish. They recreate "Not Great Men"'s classic "Doooo!" (in left speaker) "Brank!" (in right speaker) guitar riff, infuse "To Hell With Poverty" with amyl nitrate dance energy, turn in superior performances of the pulverizing "What We All Want" and "At Home He Feels Like A Tourist," and give "I Love A Man In A Uniform" a guitar-focused ROCK approach that (though admittedly it makes less practical sense without the female vocals) kicks the '80s-drenched original version in its Members Only parachute Izod leg warmers! In other news, Jon miraculously even manages to sing the first verse of "We Live As We Dream, Alone" on key, thanks to a loud new rhythm guitar crankin' in the mix. I still don't understand what the hell he's trying to achieve with that key change in the second verse, but hey! He's the artist, I'm the rapper. Don't shoot me, I'm only the player piano! (*begins playing a merry song even though nobody's touching the keys*)

In conclusion, Gang of Four were arrested for stealing cables near Dubai-Al Ain Road.

Reader Comments
I'm so glad I'm not the only person that never equated Gang of Four with God. I get that they're influential and all, and they certainly have a cool sound, but with a few notable excpetions ("To Hell With Poverty!"), their songs are just hookless and boring to me. Then again, I felt the same way about the Jesus Lizard until like, a month ago. So maybe I'll give 'em another shot some day. But for now, I hate them!
I think you probably knew I would disagree with you pretty heavily about these first couple of albums.

That said, fuck, man. It hurts me a tiny bit, this lack of 10's on the page.

"Damaged Goods" is about sexual guilt, not "lust preventing man from reaching his full potential."

And I don't see how most of what they wrote about makes them Marxists. I always thought most of their lyrics were about feeling tired with capitalism and the idiotic rules that society and advertising imposes on you. That doesn't make the lyrics "smug Marxist propaganda." (I would argue that Gang of Four is not really Marxist at all.) Fuck, I agree with most of their lyrics and I think Marxism is absolute horseshit. It's like they're dissecting the consequences of living in capitalism. While that might make them college students (so what), it doesn't make them Marxists. What kind of Marxists would sign with EMI? (And have such idiotic business sense that they barely made a penny from signing with them, therefore necessitating the "Return the Gift" album, and get absolutely shafted by their more ideologically correct comrades in music like Crass and The Ex besides? Wait, don't answer that...)

Anyway, "Entertainment" is a 10 (even though I agree "Glass" is weak, it's not a rewrite of "So You Wanna Be a Rock n' Roll Star" - and it's a better song than that self-pity anthem) and "Solid Gold" is a 9 ("The Republic" isn't a good song, but "A Hole In The Wallet" and "In The Ditch" are great, and "Cheeseburger" and "He'd Send In The Army" are masterpieces, particularly the latter - and on the whole I probably like listening to it more than "Entertainment"), along with the accompanying EP's. Sometimes I wonder whether "Solid Gold" shouldn't get the 10. I also have no idea why you think it's any different from the first one - it's just refined and a little slower, that's all.

"Songs of the Free" has good songs that are absolutely ruined by their clueless, cheeseball production, and everything else is absolutely horrible.

I would like to conclude by saying that I agree that "Paralysed" is probably one of the five best songs they ever did, and that Andy Gill's guitar playing has influenced me to a probably unhealthy degree. (I plead in my favor that I can get the Andy Gill guitar tone really well out of my little solid state practice amp. For all you guitar players out there, solid state amps with the gain up but NO distortion, and tons of playing attack = Gill, basically.)
Every assumption these guys operated from was wrong, except the musical ones, and then only for 1 LP and a few singles/ep's -- note how fast they ran out of gas when they ran into a little thing like "commercial failure," something commies can't cope with.

They can suck my gnome chomsky.

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Content – Yep Roc 2011
Rating = 3

I was enjoying a nice cool glass of America the other day when the most amazing thing happened: a pithy statement appeared in Rolling Stone magazine. Right at the end of his 2 ˝ star review of Gang of Four’s Content, a Mr. “Jon Dolan” wrote, “It's anti-capitalist mainly because you won't enjoy owning it.”

Brilliant! Dolan’s statement is an honst and witty summation of this boring collection of slow, hookless material. So instead of wasting my time reviewing the worthless bag of shit, I’m just gonna try to come up with a one-line dismissal as good as his.

“Incapable of providing the solid gold entertainment of yesteryear, Gang of Four settles for mere content.”

“The entire endeavor is summed up in the title of track 8: ‘It Was Never Gonna Turn Out Too Good’.”

"I think it's safe to say that the band members are the only ones who'll be 'content' with this one."

"You come out of the experience feeling as if you've walked into a teepee full of ripoff artists -- or 'con tent,' you might say."

"Gang of Four? More like Gang of BORE, if you ask me!"

"Makes Franz Ferdinand sound like a slightly smaller pile of shit."

"Is the drummer asleep!? I could create a more propulsive rhythm with a bag of wet cement and a worm."

"Andy Gill still has one of the most idiosyncratic guitar tones in rock, which is good because he only plays about two notes the whole album."

"If you ever prayed to God that somebody would release a CD combining the bleak fatigue of Solid Gold with the tuneless '80s shit-dance of Hard, then fuck you and fuck your God."

"MY FLOOR by 'Weird Al' Yankovic
Parody of MY WAR by Black Flag

MYYYYYYYYYYYY FLOOR! You're one of them!
You say -- that you're my window
You're one of them!

You don't want to see me fall
You go from wall to wall
'cause you're one of them!

My floor! You're one of them!
You say that you're my window
You're one of them! Them! Them! Them! Them!


My floor! You're one of them!
You say that you're my window
You're one of them!

Well, I might not know what a window is
All I know is what you're not
'cause you're one of them! Them!

My floor! You're one of them!
You said that you're my window
You're one of them! One of them! One of them! You're one of them!

YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!! You're one of them. This time, it's mine! TRY! My home, your ground.

I have a nice kitchen, a sink with a drain
You say you're a window, but you don't have a pane
I feel in my heart that if I had a rug
I feel in my heart, you'd give it a hug
I feel in my heart, on you I could frug
Come on

MYYYYYYYYYYYYY FLOOR!!!!! You're one of them!
You say -- that you're my window
You're one of them!

Tell me I'm an ass!
Tell me you're clear and made of glass
You're one of them!

My floor, you're one of them
You said that you're my window
You're one of them! You're one of them. You're one of them!


OH! You're one of them!
You're one of them!
I can't believe you! You're one of them!
And you're one of them!
And you're one of them!
And you're one of them!
One of them! Them! Them! Them! Them! Them! Them! Them!

"This album sux (pr. 'suts')."

Reader Comments

Stefan Perrier
Hey man, I just wanted to respond to your review of Content!!!!!!

Here is the contents of this email:

ANYWAYS, the album is pretty weird. Do As I Say and Second Life (The last song!) Are fucking fantastic Gang of Four songs! I mean, they fucking remind me of all their old shit with the same spirit and the same sort of, you know, pseudo-Marxist angst. Second Life has a great fucking guitar riff and is really well-structured with a keyboard blast break-down.

The rest of the album is awful, contemporary produced bullshit. But those two songs seem to have different producers or something, as they sound almost completely different from the rest of the album!

Anyways, I just saw them live and they were really, really good! Their singer does this dance where he makes an x with his arms over his head and thrusts his pelvis and his jack creeps up and you can see his belly button ring.

James Parker
re: 'MY FLOOR'


Nate Goldsmith
thank you and congratulations for "my floor" by weird al yancovic

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