Post-Punk Icons Attempt A Return to Form But Show Their Old Age

Gang Of Four
Content
Yep Roc

After 30 years of inspiring genre-defining post-punk from R.E.M. to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, you’d expect Gang of Four’s latest album to reflect some semblance of that effortlessly aggressive New Wave flare. But on Content, the iconic band abandons its guitar-heavy, politically driven sound for baffling, avant-garde minimalism.

Whereas their most successful singles were in the vein of less rage-infused Sex Pistols (“Damaged Goods” off debut Entertainment!), or a rhythmic cacophony of experimental feedback (“Tattoo” from last studio album Shrinkwrapped), Content stretches a handful of repetitive tracks into an album of obvious punk.

On “You’ll Never Pay for the Farm,” singer Jon King drawls, “You’ll never pay for the farm/Someone should raise the alarm/I think you’re losing your charm/You cannot do any harm.” The beaten-to-death rhyme scheme, along with King’s limited vocal range (he strains to reach high notes at his tender age of 55), might make you wonder whether the same track’s been played on repeat for the past half an hour.

The only gleam of hope comes when guitarist Andy Gill is able to escape King’s lifeless drone on the prophetically titled “It Was Never Gonna Turn Out Too Good,” a dark and melodious jam that’s beautiful in its simplicity. He releases a slow, simple riff that hums with rich reverb and glimmering moments of feed-back, but fails to save the track from its curious conclusion: a dialogue between a Stephen Hawking-style synthesizer and King’s vocally impaired subconscious on poverty and the tragedy of his life.

Gang of Four hold a place of relevance and esteem from punk’s finest era, but there’s none of that here. The intensity and originality of the group has drained away in the decades since their inception, as more recent artists have taken their once-inno- vative style and run with it (Pixies, Interpol, Death From Above 1979…), leaving us with an album of poorly recycled sounds. (4/10)

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