They took the dynamics of a rock band and turned them inside out. They added ideas...
Nick Reynolds 2004
The Gang of Four's debut, the Damaged Goods EP, was one of the best records of 1978. They took the dynamics of a rock band and turned them inside out. They added ideas from dub and reggae and a big dollop of social realism, sexual anxiety and Marxism. Andy Gill's guitar spluttered and crackled, exploding into violent jagged chords. Jon King ranted and yelped.
But Solid Gold comes from 1981. We are in difficult second album territory. I saw them live around this time: they were very loud and pretty exciting. Solid Gold captures none of that. The two extra live tracks included with this reissue give you a better taste of their power. But for the first five tracks of Sold Gold they trudge lumpily through different versions of the same lacklustre idea. The production is really dull.
''Paralyzed'' paints an accurate picture of early eighties Britain: tense, gray, downtrodden and miserable. But it's not much fun to listen to. The album only takes off more than half way through with ''In The Ditch''. This boasts a memorable hook, clever ideas and some real funk.
Much better is the EP Another Day, Another Dollar, also included here. ''To Hell With Poverty'' is a nervy yet toe-tapping slice of white funk. ''Capital (It Fails Us Now)'' is a great song title, and a phrase I still find myself muttering when watching some new fiasco on the evening news.
Bands like Fugazi owe the Gang of Four a big debt for both their music and their attitude. But when Fugazi rage against the system it feels empowered and inspiring. Solid Gold feels like being lectured by a Guardian reader about other people's oppression.
Ironically, the Gang Of Four were more musically advanced than contemporaries like Joy Division or The Fall. But Solid Gold lacks that touch of visionary madness; that lust for extremes that marks a truly great band. Interesting, but not essential.