King's world-weary tones really imbue 'Paralysed' with such power that it makes 'Solid...
Jack Smith 2004-05-19
When the Gang Of Four limped away, Americanised and unloved in the mid 80s, it seemed as if they would never be talked of fondly again. Andy Gill, of course, went into production, Dave Allen had already left for Shriekback, Hugo Burnham played drums with Samantha Fox (if you want to defeat the enemy, comrade) and singer Jon King retired.
I still have a theory that no one really likes them, but that their return is the result of some conspiracy but now GO4 are back back BACK! At a time when their influence drips out of virtually every new band that has emerged in the past three years (alright, maybe not McFly).
Return The Gift showcases the Gang Of Four from 1979-82 only -don't mention the partially successful Chic approximations of later albums Hard and Mall. The first disc comprises re-recordings of their classics, while the second remix disc strives to position the group as everybody's darlings; teaming them up with cats they no doubt met at their recent round of award ceremony aftershows.
The playing throughout is tighter but their somewhat gauche edge has been replaced with a rockism (ask your granddad) that their 20-year-old selves would have laughed out of court. But, it cannot be denied that they really do sound like they're having great fun. King's world-weary tones really imbue"Paralysed" with such power that it makes Solid Gold sound suddenly three-dimensional.
Of the remixes, some work, some do not. Go Home Productions remix of "To Hell With Poverty" grafts "Papas Got A Brand New Pigbag" to the original and makes it twang and snap vibrantly. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs "I Love A Man In Uniform" finds Karen O duetting with King while Tony Kanal's mix of "Ether" is successful too, locating its inherent melody. To hear the words 'Long Kesh' over clattering hip hop beats is as jarring today as hearing the prison mentioned in song at all in 1980.
So, Return The Gift is not a disaster by any means, but you are left simply pondering the question why they released it at all. Buy it for your lecturer uncle for Christmas.