Sound — 10
Those of you who like to salivate over Flea in your spare time may have come across a band called Gang of Four: the guy apparently loves them. Though a fairly well-known and respected band in music-press circles, and thoroughly adored in both the '80s hardcore and post-hardcore scenes, Gang of Four unfortunately remain a band that many people simply haven't heard of. Consequently, many think that "post-punk" is simply a term which refers to the Smiths and Joy Division, which it clearly is not. The reference to both the Smiths and Joy Division is not intended to function as a snide jab, both bands are incredible in their own right: it is more of a comment to highlight the often limited perception of post-punk. Whereas Joy Division (at least on record, thanks to the controlling Martin Hannett) was atmospheric, moody and rather depressing, Gang of Four is dissonant, angry and makes you feel like punching your boss in the face. Possibly the greatest innovation that Gang of Four is credited with is Andy Gill's guitar work. According to the band, they were attempting to get Gill to play a quarter of the notes he was initially playing - the result is the aural equivalent of a blunt and bloodied knife. Gill's guitar tone is notably jagged, and this coupled with his no-nonsense riffs create a certain tension throughout the album. The album would truly be an exhausting listen if it were not for tracks like "I Found that Essence Rare" and "Natural's Not in It", which serve to ease this tension (even if only slightly), whilst maintaining momentum. Dissonance is also used very effectively and (particularly at the time) inventively, possibly on best display on the "solo" of "Return the Gift", "Anthrax" and "Contract". The latter would qualify for a catchy pop song, if it were not for Gill's guitar totally discounting any possibly notion of this. "Anthrax" is another standout track and begins and ends with incredible feedback manipulation. "Damaged Goods" is a rather catchy song and features less abrasive guitar-work from Gill. "At Home He's a Tourist" also features some inventive delay effects. As you may have already deduced, most of the strong melodies (similar to many other post-punk bands) come from the bass. The influences of funk and dub are clear, and Dave Allen comes up with some great basslines, especially in the great opener "Ether" and "At Home He's a Tourist". Hugo Burnham's drumming serves to keep the band tight, and reinforce the jagged sound of Gill's guitar. Little or no reverb is used on any of the drum tracks and this gives the drums their own sharp sound. Though often overlooked, the rhythm section is danceable, clever and everything you would expect from such a talented post-punk band.
Lyrics — 9
One notable thing about Gang of Four is that there is absolutely no romanticism. There are a few moments of humour, though these are rather dark and dry. Unlike many punk bands before them, who more often than not force-fed their listeners with political and social opinions and views, Gang of Four simply asking for people to think about things. One of the more amusing tracks, the closer "Anthrax" features two lyrical lines: one where Jon King sings that "Love will get you like a case of anthrax/And that's something I don't wanna catch", whilst Andy Gill rants in a monotonous tone, like some bullied accountant, about how what happens between two people is not considered to be interesting lyrical subject matter by the band. Most of their lyrics are intelligent, thoughtful, and sometimes rather amusing.
Overall Impression — 10
Entertainment! is a flat-out great record. It's influence can be heard on many records ranging from early REM to Big Black to many modern British "indie guitar bands" (though this may be unknowingly). Like most great records, it still sounds relatively fresh. So kids, next time you're going to have another Flea-salivating-session, try reading up on who influenced the guy. Who knows, you may even be compelled to spin something that isn't Metallica or RHCP.