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Gang of Four

Warner Bros. BSK 3446
Released: 1979

This British quartet plays the same type of art school-influenced suburban funk as Talking Heads. The lyrics, though, are more political and biting. The beat on many tracks is danceable, but the vocals of the foursome and the odd guitar work contradict the flowing lines of the rhythm. While what is here is not very commercial, the band has toured and has a following. Best cuts: "I Found That Essence Rare," "5:45," "Damaged Goods," "Return The Gift."

- Billboard, 1979.

Bonus Reviews!

This album contains the group's best-known song, "At Home He's a Tourist," subject of a censorship row with the BBC when Top of the Pops would not broadcast the word "rubbers." In spite or because of ensuing publicity, this was the band's most successful LP in Britain, though they did not begin to chart in America until the eighties.

Entertainment! appears in the lists of several of our critics, suggesting that its highly charged collection of social and political comment stimulated the intellect and got the toes tapping of at least an informed fringe of the rock community.

On this record the Gang of Four were Dave Allen, Hugo Burnham, Andy Gill and Jon King. They expressed a philosophy of sorts about the lyrical content of their songs in a note on the inner sleeve which stated, of other artists' tendency to focus on love, "These groups and singers think they appeal to everyone by singing about love because apparently everyone has or can love or so they would have you believe anyway but these groups go along with the belief that love is deep in everyone's personality and I don't think we're saying there's anything wrong with love just don't think that what goes on between two people should be shrouded in mystery."

In 1987, Entertainment! was chosen by a panel of rock critics and music broadcasters as the #41 rock album of all time.

- Paul Gambaccini, The Top 100 Rock 'n' Roll Albums of All Time, Harmony Books, 1987.

With songs like "Love Like Anthrax" and "Damaged Goods," you soon realize that the title of this release is heavy on sarcasm. Still, a decade and a half after its debut, Entertainment! still sounds direct, exciting and uncompromising. And, in spite of GOF's anti-pop tendencies, songs like "I Found That Essence Rare" explode into a singalong chorus that is delightfully shocking. True to their collectivist spirit, Gill, King, Burnham and Allen are a forceful musical unit, and the strength in this unity makes for a great fusion of punk, pop and politics. Easily one of the best records of the post-punk era. Issued on CD by Infinite Zero in 1995. * * * * *

- John Dougan, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Gang of Four's Entertainment! is a spellbinding collection of politicized, funky post-punk. Because the lyrics are fragmented and opaque, they largely avoid the truisms that befall preachier songwriters. * * * *

- Simon Glickman, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

The raw truth shines through on this Leeds UK quartet's staccato, danceable disc -- a vital, seminal set of neo-Marxist rock that remains one of the greatest political albums, making the Gang what Rage Against the Machine always wanted to be. With its shockingly sharp songs and ironic, striking, socially conscious lyrics wrapped in dissonance, it's a model for all to follow and highly recommended for anyone who missed the punk revolution of the late 1970s. * * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

Formed in 1977, Gang of Four combined Marxist politics with punk rock. They played staccato guitar-driven funk, and the stiff, jerky aggression of songs such as "Damaged Goods" and "I Found That Essence Rare" invented a new style that's still influencing young bands such as Rapture.

Entertainment! was chosen as the 490th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

Gang of Four formed in Leeds, England, in 1977, naming themselves after the Chinese political faction associated with Mao Tse-tung's widow. Eyebrows were raised when this avowedly left-wing group signed to EMI, but their uncompromising attitude remained intact.

Entertainment!'s groundbreaking sound is due to the tight funk rhythms laid down by bassist Dave Allen and drummer Hugo Burnham, and Andy Gill's scratchy staccato guitar. The use of space allows Jon King's intelligently delivered vocals to be heard, while the gaps are filled with jagged guitar feedback and melodica.

Defiantly anti-sexist and anti-Fascist, the band were lyrically inspired by the looming specter of Thatcherism and the rise in violence between right- and left-wing factions that they witnessed in their native Yorkshire in the late 1970s. "At Home He's a Tourist" and "Contract" attempt to challenge men and women's traditional roles in society; "Ether"'s Funkadelic-inspired call-and-answer vocals examine the way the media's exposure of British mistreatment of Northern Irish prisoners was obscured by the discovery of North Sea oil. "Damaged Goods" explores the metaphors between sex and consumerism. Most powerful of all is "5:45," with its portrayal of graphic war scenes on prime-time television news.

The music is, however, delivered with wit, anger, and raw energy, and the vocals never descend into mindless ranting. Entertainment! is fresh and consistent, the Gang's "Neo-Marxist funk" inspiring groups as disparate as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Rapture.

- Chris Shade, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

Unabashedly cerebral and sonically violent, Gang of Four recognized punk's sociological and artistic dead ends in the wake of the Sex Pistols' implosion. The Leeds, England, quartet -- vocalist Jon King, guitarist Andy Gill, bassist Dave Allen and drummer Hugo Burnham -- smashed punk into pieces by embracing folk, dub and disco, making music as radical as their politics. On their combative, compulsively dance-y 1979 debut album, Entertainment!, Gill's fractured rhythm guitar shreds chords and roars anti-solos as Allen's funk bass supplies melody and Burnham rocks steady.

Further reading on
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Gang Of Four Lyrics

Gang Of Four Videos

King's rhythmic yelp deconstructs history ("Not Great Men"), war ("Guns Before Butter"), sex ("Damaged Goods") and capitalism (nearly every track); the combination has inspired Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine as well as current club rockers from the Rapture to Bloc Party. Expanded with equally combustible singles, demos and live rarities, Entertainment! once again sounds bracingly current. "Guerrilla-war struggle is a new entertainment," King gasps as the band captures a world in collapse. * * * * 1/2

- Barry Walters, Rolling Stone, 5/19/05.

Scores of bands followed the Sex Pistols-led punk revolution. Very few of them ever made a record that's simultaneously as informed and energized as Gang of Four's Entertainment! Here are essays on post-Marxism and materialism ("Damaged Goods" makes the case that accumulating stuff ends up killing the soul), as well as angry tirades against ruling-class society and withering critiques of nationalism ("Not Great Men"). Heard from the cushy confines of consumer culture thirty years on, some of the songs are downright prescient: "Natural's Not in It" begins with "The problem of leisure, what to do for pleasure."

"There has always been a misconception that we were just a bloody-minded bunch of miserable socialists intent on overturning society," bassist Dave Allen says in the liner notes of an anniversary edition. Instead, he argues, Gang of Four was really looking for alternatives. "We were questioning the herd mentality."

That questioning can be overt, but it often functions like a stealth bomb within the songs of Entertainment! -- it's to enjoy the ragged forward thrust of the music without getting hung up on its rhetoric. That's because the four former Leeds University students embrace more musical diversity than many of their anarchy-minded peers. The rhythm section pumps out proud, uniconic snatches of disco, dub reggae, and deep funk. They're hardly genius musicians, but as a group use worldly, slightly off-kilter rhythms to propel the commentary along. You might find yourself disagreeing with the Gang's polemics, but it's hard to argue with them when you're dancing.

- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.

Formed in 1977, Gang of Four combined Marxist politics with punk rock without ever sounding like stiff grad students. The jerky aggression of songs such as "Damaged Goods" and "I Found That Essence Rare" influenced the Minutemen and Sleater-Kinney, among others.

Entertainment! was chosen as the 273rd greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.

- Rolling Stone, 10/20.

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