Rising out of the tail end of the late 1970s British music scene (thus earning the “postpunk” label), Gang of Four combined dub reggae and punk with funk undercurrents. The Leeds quartet provocatively named themselves after the cadre of Chinese Communist Party officials who wielded power in the 1960s. And while Gang of Four have often proclaimed their political point of view in their lyrics, they’ve always made sure that listeners could dance to the music.
Save for a couple of changes in bass players, the original Gang of Four lineup held together through four excellent studio albums: their 1979 debut “Entertainment!,” “Solid Gold” (1981), 1982’s “Songs of the Free” and “Hard” from 1983. The first three charted in their native UK, and all but the debut album reached the US album charts. Many of the group’s best moments from that era are collected on the 1990 best-of set, “A Brief History of the Twentieth Century.”
Lead vocalist Jon King and guitarist Andy Gill would revive the group for nearly a decade (1987-97), releasing two more albums before splitting again. But in 2004 the duo re-formed the original quartet (with bassist Dave Allen and drummer Hugo Burnham), recording a disc of old songs for 2005’s “Return the Gift.” Gang of Four subsequently changed up its rhythm section again, and after 2011’s “Content,” founding member King left the group, leaving only Gill from the original lineup.
The Andy Gill-led Gang of Four released “What Happens Next” in 2015, an album that—while it received mixed reviews on release—still displays the passion and energy of their earliest efforts. The newly release lived album “Live…in the Moment” documents their current show, an effective mix of “What Happens Next” tracks and favorites from their early days; the latter includes the classics “At Home He’s a Tourist” and “To Hell With Poverty.” Gang of Four’s insistent, throbbing bass lines, martial drums and stinging, slashing guitar lines all work in support of Gill’s impassioned and declamatory vocals.
While Gill was all of twenty-three when he co-wrote “Damaged Goods,” at sixty he leads a Gang of Four that’s every bit as filled with crackling energy as it was nearly four decades ago. In this politically charged season, there’s always a place for politically-focused music…especially when you can dance to the dialectics. (Bill Kopp)
September 30 at Metro, 3730 North Clark, 9pm, (773)549-0203, $29.50.
With a background in marketing and advertising, Bill Kopp got his professional start writing for Trouser Press. His more than 2,500 interviews, essays, and reviews reflect Bill’s keen interest in American musical forms, most notably rock, jazz and soul. His work features a special emphasis on reissues and vinyl. Bill’s work also appears in many other outlets both online and in print. He also researches and authors liner notes for album reissues, and co-produced a reissue of jazz legend Julian “Cannonball” Adderley’s final album. His first book, “Reinventing Pink Floyd,” is due from Rowman & Littlefield in February 2018.