GANG OF FOUR, A 100 FLOWERS BLOOM: Would you like politics with that?

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Gang of Four: Damaged Goods (1978)
GANG OF FOUR, A 100 FLOWERS BLOOM: Would you like politics with that?

The ideas and ideologies which came in the late 70s with punk, new wave and anarcho-pop threw up some extraordinary bands, not the least of which was Gang of Four, an outfit from Leeds whose 1979 debut Entertainment! brought together minimalist punk-funk bass and drums with guitarist Andy Gill's switchblade guitar and howling feedback.

Oh, and over the top were Jon King's Marxist lyrics which worked difficult polemics about gender politics, social justice and consumer capitalism.

Pretty much your standard pop fare, huh?

They did the then-customary Rock Against Racism gigs, lost momentum with their leaden Solid Gold follow-up album but then along came the Falklands War and they had their issues again for terrific songs like We Live As We Dream and I Love a Man in a Uniform.

The Thatcher years and diminishing songwriting returns took their toll, although Gang of Four have sporadically revived themselves, to little great effect.

The non-chronological, double CD set A 100 Flowers Bloom (with thorough booklet) which appeared in '99 swept up singles, album tracks, material from reformations (with Sara Lee on bass, later of B52's and Ani DiFranco bands), live tracks and so on.

Gang of Four were certainly influential (you can hear everyone from Talking Heads to Bono and REM) but over the very long haul King's whine and the sludgy returns of their later years make the collection overlong and patchy.

So while a brilliant single disc lurks within, despite the Confucian title from a band named after the political faction around Mao's widow, this feels more like the Long March.

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