Editors' pick

Gang of Four


Editorial Review

Album review: "Content"

Among the most imitated rock styles of the past three decades, Gang of Four's choppy art-punk is propulsive but detached, explosive yet ironic. That's an elusive formula, which singer John King and guitarist Andy Gill didn't quite recapture on the two albums they made as Gang of Four in the 1990s. They come a lot closer with "Content," their third set of new material since the original group's 1984 split.

Although their band was often dubbed Marxist, King and Gill weren't trying to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat; their songs examined consumerism and alienation, concerns that have become only more central in the age of YouTube, Facebook and other cyber-mirrors. "Who am I when everything is me?" wonders one of the album's best tracks, "Who Am I?"

Assisted by a new rhythm section, King and Gill revisit the jittery, fractured funk of 1979's "Entertainment" and iced-down soul of 1982's "Songs of the Free." Sometimes they follow their own models too closely, as when they repurpose the female backing vocals of "I Love a Man in a Uniform" for "I Party All the Time." But most of "Content" clicks, demonstrating that Gang of Four's music remains as pertinent as its worldview.

- Mark Jenkins, Feb.