Saturday, April 23, 2005

Gang of Four
(Rhino re-issue)

Dr Feelgood’s Too Fast for Love, no energy domes or socked cocks but songs like “King of Comedy”. Many Californication owners have never heard of Hillel Slovak. Go4’s drummer was later replaced by a machine, something the Rolling Stones didn’t get into until Bridges to Babylon. The alleged Swiss-cheese dartboard on “Love Rollercoaster” is actually being skinned alive for the cover of Honey. In 1954 a lot of record covers were like that, atolls and tikis. 1979 was the year of the Contortions’ Buy, the Kinks’ Low Budget, and Adam & The Ants’ Dirk Wears White Sox, which included political songs like “Animals and Men” (“Marinetti, Boccioni!”) and “Fire an M-80 at Someone from Haiti.” Go4’s machine wore a hat, and had a job, and brought home the bacon so that no one knew. James Brown’s drummer is referred to as ‘Clyde Shubble’ in his current memoir I Feel Good. The drummers of Motley Crue and Rush wisely wrote their own. Adorno killed himself and Althusser killed somebody else.

The Manic Street Preachers replaced their guitar player with not a machine, but ‘nothing’. (A. Gill: “Suddenly, you're very conscious of the guitar because it's not there.”) They at least adapted the Euro-strategy of using African-American music for worker education to a post-G’n’R world but iftheworldsbiggestMalltoldthetruthforoneday you still couldn’t find an edible cheeseburger in England. Luther Vandross and Stevie Ray Vaughn both started with David Bowie. Go4 appeared on the Karate Kid soundtrack, along with Bananarama (JB: “Internal regimentation was not just a safer way to live, but the only way”) and Shandi.

Dr. Feelgood’s “Roxette” claimed “I’m gonna get some concrete mix and fill her backdoor up with bricks”. You could imagine Lee Brilleaux doing that, whereas Go4 were students, except for the bass player, (later of Shriekback), who ripped the Magnum PI theme for “To Hell With Poverty” (pron. “pov-er-tee”, as in ‘tea’), which also had a voice copying a Linndrum. (JB: “I call my time in prison the poor man’s Medicare.”) The bass should be louder on this record. The Darkness should’ve had less complicated words and more guitar solos. “Anthrax” (“Eruption” for students) ripped the riff from Chicago’s “Free Form Guitar” and the drums from Rush’s “Body Electric”, although Rush were into the Chicago school while Go4 were Frankfurt fratboys.

This music is not as fun to play in rehearsal as blues-rock stoner stuff. Everybody has to know their individual parts and where they are in the song. (JB: “There was a new sound in the air, and it was just about the opposite of everything I had come to stand for in music. It was called disco.”) Go4 ruthlessly suppressed tendencies toward personality cultism, more so than Bradfield, Edwards, Moore & Wire, or for that matter Frey, Henley, Leadon & Meisner. Entertainment! overlapped thematically in places with The Long Run, although the Eagles’ “Disco Strangler” and “King of Hollywood” were musically and lyrically crude and brutal in comparison. The song the guitarist considers the most ‘poppy’ is “Glass”, which has a similar riff to Foreigner’s “Luanne”.

Adam and the Ants went on to dress like Native Americans and do political songs like “Picasso Visita El Planeta De Los Simios”, the Futurist “Sweet Home Guernica”. Go4’s next few albums sounded like screwed-and-chopped versions of “True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes” with an English new-wave guy singing. Entertainment’s cover featured pictures of a cowboy meeting an Indian and was captioned “The Indian smiles, he thinks that the cowboy is his friend. The cowboy smiles, he is glad the Indian is fooled. Now he can exploit him.” Which is stupid – why would the Indian be smiling? (The faces are replaced with colored blobs, so we don’t know if the caption is even true.) How would the cowboy know that the Indian is ‘fooled’ (into what?), and how’s he going to exploit an Indian, those people got nothing anyway. Only a Euro could come up with this. Then again G’n’R had a whole ‘big joke’ disclaimer on the cover of Lies, while Entertainment! has a decadent title. The exclamation point is good, like I give a fuck, like I give a shit about motherfucking shit like that fucking shit. The next wave will be American bands who discovered PiL’s Flowers of Romance a few years ago, unless they (very wise) cross over into big business, free enterprise.

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