Review: Gang Of Four - Return The Gift
The import of Gang Of Four's old-is-new-again CD contains an extra disc of remixes that begs the question: Will GOF try to out-club the club kids? Thankfully the answer is they don't even go there. Think of Return The Gift as a great new Peel session recorded a quarter century after the fact.
The career of GOF has paralleled that of Wire, with Wire producing more great albums up front before dissolving into irrelevance, only to come back strong riding a wave of nostalgia for jagged edges and asexual dance beats. I only point this out to show you how clever I am.
Why release covers of your own greatest hits? Well, it's not because the drum tracks needed improvement. It's more like how Pitchfork describes it:
To date, Gang of Four still have unrecouped advances on their EMI catalog and have never seen a dime of royalty cash from sales. So in order to pre-empt an attempt by their old label to cash in on the reunion with a best-of compilation they'd see no money from, they made their own best-of album, recording new masters that they'll be able to earn royalties from. It's good business.
Capital failed GOF then but they won't let that happen again! As they admit in interviews now, their politics aren't as they appear:
Q: Ah, so you were into politics already! A: No, I think that's overstating it. When you're young and doing those kind of things, you're throwing various things into the pot. Obviously, with the name Gang of Four, there's a certain element of irony and it's a little bit tongue-in-cheek. That's part of why that name works. But I don't think there was any political awareness at the stage.
Ah yes, to be young, dumb and full of art school pretentiousness. My god, their lyrics were something out of the SLA or a Sacco and Vanzetti musical, and it got more ridiculous as they went along because they tossed in groan-worthy double entendre sex references and packaged it in a disco coating that became increasingly laughable. The girls they love to see you shoot. Hoo boy...
Disc one opens with "To Hell With Poverty" and it's an in-joke confession. Track three, "Natural's Not In It", contains the recurring line "Repackaged sex keeps your interest" and it's an admission of the entire idea behind Return The Gift. "Anthrax" has a spoken/sung vocal on the right speaker which opens with the words "This is an archeology exercise really". Jeez, the cd keeps on referencing itself.
On the plus side, the versions here all kick arse and "I Love A Man In Uniform" is given a stiffer wrist. The drums pound and the guitar slashes and burns. The bonus disc isn't that bad either, with only a few wane efforts at dance groove and club kid numbnuttery. All in all Gang Of Four present themselves well and are presented well by others. This "proves something" and also lines their pockets with a few evil capitalist dollars. Everyone wins and Gang Of Four can still pretend they didn't sell out to maintain the interest.