The mainstream success of art-punk ensembles Bloc Party and The Futureheads has seen Leeds’ four piece Gang Of Four emerge from the forgotten nearly men section of the Encyclopaedia of Musical Heritage to genuine pioneers for the next generation.
Having initially come together during the post-punk boom of 1978 as a political tour de force that fused punk, funk and slogans-a-plenty, Gang Of Four never really amassed the commercial success that the critics of the day had been predicting for them right from the moment debut opus ‘Entertainment!’ first hit the shelves just as Margaret Thatcher was getting her feet under the table at number 10.
Despite releasing two more equally polemic long players (‘Solid Gold’ and ‘Songs Of The Free’) at the start of the next decade, original bassist Dave Allen left soon after and the band dissolved amidst a wave of fair weathered disinterest.
Having reformed the original line-up at the start of this year, the band then decided to re-record some of their favourite moments from each of the three records, encompassing the fourteen tracks here on ‘Return The Gift’.
Essentially this feels like it could almost be a live album (minus the overdubs), as the songs are pretty much in the same order as you would expect from one of their live sets minus the encore, which hopefully would have included the unsurpassable ‘I Found That Essence Rare’, sadly omitted from this collection.
Still, what you do get is a pretty concise “Best Of…” that sounds as fresh and invigorating as it would have done 25 years ago, as songs like ‘Damaged Goods’, ‘What We All Want’ and ‘Ether’ should basically be entered in the dictionary as definitions at the side of the words “Bloc Party”, “The Rapture”, “Franz Ferdinand” or indeed any of the hard-edged angular sounding bands who’ve captured Joe Public’s imagination this year.
8Dom Gourlay's Score