England's Gang of Four, which sold out the Bayou last night, is an invigorating group operating on three distinct levels. The first is theoretical: to expand and politicize the vocabulary and impact of rock music while retaining an accessible, non-elitist position. The group's socialist overview is certainly unusual, though not unique in the rock world.
The second level finds them subverting through entertainment. This philosophy is particularly evident on the band's limited recorded output. Terse, snappy lyrics dominate spare yet powerful dance rhythms. With the exception of a brief psychedelic guitar flurry on "Anthrax," Gang of Four is essentially a relentless rhythm machine designed to convey the lyrics of their angry intelligence directly to the troops.
The third level is performance, unfortunately the band's weak link. The dynamic tension and intense drive of their song constructions are not aided by the group's monotonous and frequently unintelligible singing, odd for a band so conscious of verbal impact.
Last night's set concentrated on such familiar material as the media analysis "5.45," the portrait of alienation in "At Home, He's a Tourist," and others like "Outside the Trains Don't Run on Time" and "Return the Gift." Gang of Four make an interesting case for collective rock 'n' roll, but their overly loud cant stopped the music from achieving its intended, consciousness-raising fullness.