Gang of Four will release a new album What Happens Next through Membran on March 2, 2015, alongside a new single ‘England’s In My Bones’ (March 2) featuring The Kills’ Alison Mosshart on vocals. The new release- the band’s ninth studio album & successor to 2011’s acclaimed Content- follows a headline live show at London Oslo on February 28 2015.
More than a band, Gang of Four is an idea for a band- an argument, a manifesto, a dare. What would happen if you dismantled assumptions and worked from first principles? What might a rock band sound like if it took nothing for granted? As a result, Gang of Four has always been bigger than their original line-up – the band who self-imposed stringent rules only to break them on subsequent records was never meant to remain static. What Happens Next, the title of Gang of Four’s thrilling and unsettling ninth album, refers both to the world outside and the band itself: an emphatic commitment to the future.
As on the band’s 2013 tour dates, founding guitarist and songwriter Andy Gill has constructed a new Gang of Four for What Happens Next: John “Gaoler” Sterry on vocals, Thomas McNiece on bass and Jonny Finnigan on drums (although previous drummer Mark Heaney also features). Gill’s first album without singer Jon King, it is aware of Gang of Four’s past, but not beholden to it. Sterry is joined on vocal duties by Alison Mosshart (The Kills, The Dead Weather), Gail Ann Dorsey, Robbie Furze of the Big Pink and Japanse guitar hero Hotei, plus German musician and actor Herbert Grönemeyer. What Happens Next contains the intellectual muscle you would expect, but this plenitude of international voices also makes it Gang of Four’s most richly emotional album yet. “The focus is more on universal issues, like how individuals behave in certain ways or how our world is constructed, than local issues or current affairs” says Gill, “Gang of Four is anything but parochial.”
Stream ‘England’s In My Bones’ BELOW:
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What Happens Next, says Gill, “tackles questions of identity in the globalised world,” but its roots are in London, where he has a home and studio. The tense, cold ‘Isle of Dogs’ was inspired by both a visit to The Shard (which also dominates the album’s startling artwork), and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, with Gill’s narrator as a modern-day Colonel Kurtz. Beginning with a crackling Robert Johnson sample which gives way to an ominous electronic bassline, album opener ‘Where the Nightingale Sings’ punctures persistent myths about town and country, while ‘England’s in My Bones’, featuring Mosshart and a guitar line that writhes and sparks like an electric cable, challenges the delusions of nationalism, even sardonically borrowing a line from William Blake’s Jerusalem. Gill describes it as “desolate and yet somehow defiant — not a nostalgia-tinged view of Englishness but something closer to the messy reality.”
Gill frequently wrestles with the restrictions of ideology- on the menacing ‘Graven Image’, Furze viciously pinpoints the oppressive logic of organised religion. The album’s most beautiful song, ‘Dying Rays’, weaves an elegiac piano melody around a sonorous Grönemeyer vocal which contrasts the individual with the groupthink of national identity and ideology, while keeping one eye on time and mortality- it is like nothing Gang of Four have ever done before. Another guest is Japanese guitar hero Tomoyasu Hotei, who contributes co-writing and a solo to ‘Dead Souls’, named after Nikolai Gogol’s classic 19th century novel. “The song is about an idea that’s in the book and describes very much what is happening now, which is the uncritical acceptance of fodder: news, ideas, attitudes, consumer marketing,” Gill explains. “We’re all dead souls in the sense of being deadened.”
Gang of Four initially existed, with various personnel changes, between 1977 and 1983. Emerging with debut album Entertainment! (voted in Pitchfork’s top ten albums of the 70s & a ‘Record That Changed The World’ by Mojo) the band felt like a blast of ice-cold water, both in form and content. Committed foes of received wisdom, they subjected traditional ‘rock’n’roll values’ to ruthless scrutiny, while making music every bit as physically exciting as what they were challenging. The Gang of Four’s recordings and incendiary live performances have been hugely influential, and have left their mark on R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Minutemen; Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana and Massive Attack; Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party and LCD Soundsystem. Gill and King made two more albums in the 90s and another in 2011, Content. When King left the project, a reinvigorated Gill seized the opportunity to reimagine Gang of Four from the ground up- after all, he was – as guitarist, composer, producer and lyric writer – still the band’s driving force.
With a tough, uncompromising new sound, Andy Gill has constructed a new entity for exploring enduring fascinations, making What Happens Next Gang of Four’s boldest, most self-interrogating album since Entertainment!. As ever, Gang of Four takes nothing for granted.