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Thursday, 03 February 2011 09:36

Album review: Gang of Four deliver the thinking punk's 'Content'

Album review: Gang of Four deliver the thinking punk's 'Content'
Written by pj del
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Gang of Four
Content
Yep Roc

Gang of Four originated from Leeds, across the pond some 30 years ago. In the late '70s, the band offered "a danceable solution to the problem of where four-piece guitar bands could go after punk," according to music journalist Paul Lester.

Most music -- and I don't say this dispraisingly -- seems one-dimensional.

One song, one emotion.

Enter bad guy to goose bump piano music.

Never one song that captures multiple emotions.

We move our bodies or our minds, but rarely both.

Remarkably, a few tracks on Content, Gang of Four's first album in over a decade, achieve a more multi-layered level of emotional music.

I can't remember the last time I felt this way with (not about) music. Rage against the Machine is the only band that surfaces in similarity insofar that with both Rage and Gang I feel like kicking back a cold beverage and nodding my head, all while contemplating something George Orwell wrote about last century.

"Who am I?" may be the most endearing song on Content for this very reason. I found myself in bizarre contemplation, as if the Thinking Man, with paw to chin, was swaying in a mosh pit. On the single, Jon King sings monosyllabically, "Who can steal when everything is free? Who am I when everything is me?"

What feels like self-aggrandizement from a luddite bounces with fresh meaning from a group that feels the ever-changing pain of their work carried through many mediums -- most recently any of them that are free. These are vexing issues, the free part of our culture, and what makes the 34-year-old band special is their ability to discuss current issues without sounding dated.

Maybe Jon King is right: "We internalize everything, thinking it's all about ourselves, and the world becomes a mad parade."

On the opening track, "She Said ‘You Made a Thing of Me,'" Jon King communicates choppily and succinct (think Anthony Kiedes), "what we do is what we must." Sounds like it's right out of the plain, drunken mouth of Ernest Hemingway, doesn't it?

During the span of a prolific career, what Gang of Four does, what they must do, is make us question (rhetorically or directly) everything we hold dear, all while making our bodies move.

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