Gang Of Four - Entertainment!
It was not the in-your-face politics which sometimes put me off bands like the Redskins, but just the band itself. Sometimes I thought they were trying far too hard, but too hard at what I could never really tell. I have never sought out solely the comfort zone in my musical choices but I do know what I like and don't like. And I have to say I don't really like the Gang of Four.
My basic problem with the Gang of Four is that the guitars were too jagged for prolonged listening. As with all the Gang's material, the guitars were meant to jar you out of any sense that you might get an easy listen. You were forced to listen, shaken and shook up and, like the cry of a baby, unable to shut out that sharp and compelling sound. After a while that jarring just becomes too much to take. The disjointed lyrics, non-rhyming in most cases, simply added to the effect the band were trying to create. It was as if a musical disassociation was being formulated in your head. Listening to the Gang of Four was just too difficult. Given that when it was playing I was trying hard to concentrate on some obscure passage of William of Poitiers or something, the Gang of Four were a distraction. Not only that, they were a distraction I could do without.
I tried recently, after finally purchasing the extended and remastered version of the album, to see if time had changed my opinion. I had thought that maybe the associations of the time were negatively impacting on my ability to appreciate the album for what it was. I listened to it a number of times to see if I could discern something more positive to say about it, and to replace the perhaps negative associations it had for me. To be quite frank, it didn't work.
Having said that, Entertainment! is an essential album because of the band's place in the history of early eighties post punk, and many of the qualities which can be found on great bands of that era can be seen here. It is a bit like looking at the blues and seeing where Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton came from; well look at the Gang of Four and you can see where Fischer-Z, the Sound and the Chameleons were coming from. In many ways, this was Joy Division without the manic depression. In 1979 this was a startling sound, something cutting edge and carrying with it the expectations of the generation for whom it was intended. It may have worked for a lot of my contemporaries, but it never worked for me. However, what came after, perhaps inspired by it to some extent, most certainly did appeal. For its influence then it gets a higher rating than it perhaps should have deserved.
This is one of those albums where, as I listen to it, I turn the volume gradually down. And that is so contrary to the reaction I have to many other albums that it is probably the most telling thing I can say.
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