Return the Gift (V2)

Punk-funk O.G.s Gang of Four invented the staccato guitars now heard in the herky-jerky disco of every goddamn new band from Bloc Party and Radio 4 to the Killers and Franz Ferdinand. But Gang of Four are a little older and wiser, and they know better than to try to reintroduce themselves to a new hipster audience with a lame-ass comeback record. The Gang here revisit their back catalog of late-'70s and early-'80s material and re-record it with big-ass modern production. The biggest revelations are in the dynamics; Gang of Four arrangements are big on blunt contrasts (Andy Gill's stammering guitar, Dave Allen's stop-start bass, Hugo Burnham's rolling drums, Jon King's screaming vocals), which their early records never did this much justice to. On Gift, guitarist Gill's queasy skyrocket intro to "To Hell with Poverty" is as forceful as it is beautiful and unsettling, and on "He'd Send in the Army," King's steel-on-steel bare-bones percussion is a sound to behold. It's to Gang of Four's credit that you want to hear what these songs sound like dusted off, and since their sound was so far ahead of its time it sounds seamlessly relevant now. The Pixies and the Velvet Underground are great and seminal and all, but you don't necessarily want to hear them re-record their back catalog, now do you?
Hobey Echlin

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