Gang of Four return, in reality as Gang Of One. Following the original line-up's successful reformation in 2004, rhythm section Hugo Burnham and Dave Allen repeated history by departing, leaving guitarist and founding member Andy Gill and iconic vocalist Jon King on their own, just as they had done in 1981. King then left in 2011, leaving Gill with sole custody of the post punk legends. Now, Gang Of Four (or Gang Of Gill) are back with touring vocalist John Sterry plus guest vocalists such as Alison Mosshart of The Kills and The Dead Weather and What Happens Next is, well, what happens next.
With albums like Entertainment and songs like the still superb At Home He's A Tourist, Gang Of Four produced textbook post punk music which still thrills today. Spiky, angular but, crucially, powerful and relevant, Entertainment is a rightly much lauded album. What Happens Next leaves the post punk sound behind however and instead, puzzlingly, heads for a mid 90's industrial rock feel which produces what is ultimately a fairly uneven and unsatisfying album.
There's much to love in opener Where The Nightingale Sings which combines a myriad of squalling guitar effects with a hook laden melody and the next track Broken Talk, featuring Alison Mosshart keeps the pace up albeit the track starts edging towards a strange mix of that 90's industrial/Garbage sound towards its conclusion. Isle Of Dogs and England's In My Bones, the latter again featuring Mosshart, continue that theme and at this point the album becomes a bit too samey. Isle Of Dogs features a pleasingly post punk lead guitar line however. The Dying Days is another track that seems confused; one the one hand it plays around with dated, again 90's style, drum breaks whereas on the other, at its best it sounds like it could have been an offset from David Bowie's The Next Day.
The next four tracks (Obey The Ghost, First World Citizen, Stranded and Graven Image) all fall into the trap of trying a little too hard to sound loud and angry. Obey The Ghost seems to want to be Psalm 69 era Ministry at one stage which is most odd. Dead Souls isn't a cover of the Joy Division classic and doesn't match that track's sparse intensity, again focussing too much on the 90's industrial feel that I have already mentioned too many times in one review. Closer Staubkorn at least displays a change of pace but, by that point, it's too little too late.
Anyone familiar with Gang Of Four's highpoint Entertainment looking for similar won't find too much to favourably compare here. The lyrics still speak of anger and rage at inequality but the punch and fire of old isn't there and the references to the likes of Facebook sound too forced. There are still moments in this album that sound fresh and, at times, marvellous, but there aren't enough of them. A mixed bag all in and probably one for fans only.
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