Local Wire

Gang of Four

While band-of-the-moment Franz Ferdinand and the opportunists in its wake are hyped as "dance rock," Gang of Four, the cool-influence-of-the-moment, barely played rock at all, much less dance music. 1979's Entertainment!, the debut of the now-reunited British quartet, is a trove of beguilingly tilted political songs, more alien to hoary rock 'n' roll conventions than even its punk predecessors. The word "brittle," while often tossed off by journalists, should have been invented for Andy Gill's shattered-glass guitar, and rhythmists Dave Allen and Hugo Burnham laid down the closest thing to actual American funk in punk's "black music"-obsessed canon. But the key was vocalist Jon King, with a voice that managed to sound both desperate and impassive at the same time. King's nauseatingly shrewd couplets ("He fills his head with culture/He gives himself an ulcer") added context to the groove: It was meant to evoke the inertia of watching TV, or the repetition involved in a dismal job. In info-overloaded, economically challenged times like ours, Entertainment! remains more relevant than the music of Gang of Four's supposed successors.