Gang Of Four’s early run of propulsive, funk-inflected punk set an impossible standard to follow, though a million bands have tried. Content, its first album of new material since 1995’s Shrinkwrapped, finds the British group in the awkward position of trying to sound the most like Gang Of Four. “Who am I when everything is me?” vocalist Jon King asks on “Who Am I,” and while he’s addressing self-obsessed 21st-century society, he might as well mean the last decade of music, when seemingly everyone who discovered Entertainment! formed a band. Content also revisits the immediacy of that influential work, but it falls short, just like everyone else. The opener, “She Said,” sets its dehumanization screed over a galvanizing, anxious skitter of tremolo, and it’s a thrill to hear Andy Gill’s staccato, harmonics-laden sprays of guitar again on songs like “I Can’t Forget Your Lonely Face.” Beyond recapturing that classic sound, however, Content doesn’t seem to have any real inspiration. It’s hampered by ideas that feel half-sketched, as in the simplistic rhyme schemes of the anti-repression diatribes “You’ll Never Pay For The Farm” and “Do As I Say,” or like attempts to imitate their imitators, such as the dance-rock-by-numbers of “I Party All The Time.” Only the Vocoder-laden “It Was Never Gonna Turn Out Too Good” and ponderous, pretentious ballad “A Fruitfly In The Beehive” suggest Gang Of Four is still exploring new avenues, with results ranging from mildly intriguing to embarrassing. Content certainly won’t sully the Gang Of Four legacy, but it isn’t likely to add to it, either.
We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Madonna takes on Tennessee's anti-drag laws