Words and Photo: Alex Penge
Influential, imitated and important. A couple of words that are usually thrown around when describing Marxist post-punk heroes Gang of Four. The seminal 1979 debut ‘Entertainment!’ introduced a style of minimalist scatter, often leaning towards the unprecedented funk side of punk rock. Jon King’s clamouring excerpts into Situationism partnered with lead guitarist Andy Gill’s monotone acknowledgements, ultimately challenged the view of structural consistency for guitar based pop. Gang of Four were surely the sound of a generation, but funnily enough the sound of the next generation with renewed homage from bands such as Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party since the turn of the Millennium. Can the quartet live up to their legendary status tonight?
Emblazed in bright amber lighting, Gill greets the crowd with distorted chimes of punk rock guitar. “They think you’re a winner!” roars King as the crowd is given a taste of new material from the band’s newest album in sixteen years. You’ll Never Pay for the Farm is thunderous yet poignant, clarifying why many people have fallen in love with the group’s brand of punk-funk. Despite the absence of original bassist Dave Allen, ‘Ether’ continues to sound fresh and vibrant. New bass player Thomas McNeice certainly has adapted well without drastically altering the complexion of the four-piece.
King continues throughout to explore the stage in animalistic fashion and is at his philosophical best with ‘Paralysed’ and new track A Fruitfly in the Beehive. Both songs are met with appreciative applause, undoubtedly a true testament to the insightful outlook on topics such as hyper-consumerism. Anthrax presents the crowd with its first sign of punk anarchy as King and Gill play a game of catch with a guitar tossed around harmlessly on stage. ‘I must check my life insurance payments are up to date’ mutters Gill.
If instruments were not enough, the next victim is a microwave oven for the controversial 1982 single I Love a Man in a Uniform. For the next four to five minutes the London venue is now punk’s answer to the avant-garde. Unusual percussion is added to the song through King’s smashing of the microwave with a large metal rod. Surely symbolic embodiment of the band’s critical view towards consumerism and the perceived intrusion of capitalism on society. Powerful stuff!
Not a bad way then to lead to the anthemic Damaged Goods, which unsurprisingly attracts the loudest cheers of the evening and is religiously echoed word by word by the audience. Comebacks can often be a damp affair in the music world, as the smell of the green stuff can always be too enticing to turn down. Gang of Four however are a pleasant exception to the rule of the comeback and their consciousness is still as relevant and vital as ever.