Gang of Four - Complicit EP

by Mark Moody Rating:3 Release Date:2018-04-20
Gang of Four - Complicit EP
Gang of Four - Complicit EP

Post punk pioneers Gang of Four may still quantitatively add up, but with guitarist Andy Gill as their only remaining member it’s certainly not the same band when it comes to quality.  Their latest release is a four track EP, Complicit, consisting of three new songs and a remixed version of the first track.  If you were blindfolded and had to choose which late 70s/early 80s band you were listening to I guess they retain something of their signature sound.  The touchpoint likely being Songs of the Free where they waded a little more into the middle of the dance floor, but any sense of underlying dread or urgency is long gone.

The songs themselves while attempting to be topical or political veer too far to the juvenile or pedantic to have any impact.  The best (worst?) example being the middle track ‘Ivanka (Things You Can’t Have)’, where the title of the EP is taken from.  Certainly not being sneaky in who they are targeting, they take shots at the Prez’s eldest daughter by mocking her campaign speech - “daddy loves women and he believes in family”.  If you can down that, it’s followed by the cringeworthy “In the morning daddy wants me in his room, it’s where we get together.”  Whether intended to be funny or scathing, it’s neither and ends up an embarrassing footnote in the band’s history.  I’m certainly not a Trump supporter, but of his brood Ivanka seems to display a little more intelligence, poise and entrepreneurial skill than the others.  Not sure she would be first on my list to skewer, but to each his own.  The most daring thing about the EP in the end is using Ivanka’s picture on the cover, which will undoubtedly garner some press and maybe a Presidential tweet if they're lucky.  The tactic recalls Don Was’ ‘Read My Lips’ where the younger Bush was sampled from his own campaign speech but in that case no one was going after the kids. 

The lead track ‘Lucky’ is a similarly watered down swipe at the financial system.  Replacing Jon King, lead singer John “Gaoler” Sterry complains “the lucky get the luck and the long shots lose” in a cautionary tale of the system being rigged against the little guy.  With a muscular rhythm and buzzing guitars it does retain something of their roots, but comes off not any more dangerous than a Foreigner single.  The final track before the remix ‘I’m a Liar’ is forgettable as well, with a slinky chorus that sounds like it was lifted from Bruce Springsteen’s by way of The Pointer Sister’s ‘Fire’.  While the final indignity belongs to a remix of ‘Lucky’, which has a bit of an Egyptian bazaar flavoring thrown in.   The only thing lucky for the listener is that the remix ends up being shorter than the original take.

Maybe trading on the name Gang of Four, along with the cover photo, will sell a few copies of this record, though that seems like something this band would have originally stood against.  There are bands that have remained relevant and recharged from time to time even over the course of four decades, but this EP just sadly isn’t evidence of that.  A dog without its bark, bite, or ability to get the fur flying is in the end just a dog.         

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