Posts Tagged ‘Gang of Four’

2nd September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Gang of Four’s Entertainment! Still stands as one of the definitive post-punk albums, capturing the zeitgeist of the late 70s. ‘Left’ and ‘socialist’ weren’t terms spat derisively by the media. The early years of Thatcher’s dismantlement of the country in the pursuit of the neoliberalist dream was already finding many disenfranchised and angry, with musicians articulating the sentiments of a generation in voicing dissent and dissatisfaction. Sound familiar?

I’ve been listening to Gang of Four since I was in my teens: too young to appreciate them in their day (I was born in1975), I was hooked a good decade before Franz Ferdinand and others started namedropping them and their status as one of the most important bands of the era. This isn’t any kind of hip gloat – not least of all because it would be a pretty shit one if it was. But my experience of the band live until earlier this year was limited to a few shitty VHS recordings, and the not so shitty various artists compilation VHS from circa 1984 that I picked up at a car boot in the early 90s.

So finally seeing them play live in 2016, given that the current lineup only features one original member could have been a disappointment on a monumental scale. But it wasn’t. the current lineup not only sounds great, but still has that vital sense of tension, of danger, that was always the band’s trademark.

‘Live… in the Moment’ captures this perfectly, and is released in two different forms: During a year spent touring the world, the band recorded two of the best, namely their sold-out show at New York’s Irving Plaza (which will be available as a DVD or download) and their penultimate show of 2015, at London’s Islington Assembly Hall, which will be available as an audio CD, double coloured vinyl album and download. The DVD will be packaged with the CD. Both, it has to be said, are excellent.

As a live recording, the quality is good, but it’s not excessively crisp or polished, and doesn’t scream heavy EQing, mixing, overdubbing. No, this is an honest, real live album that captures the intensity and immediacy of being in a room with a band playing live at high volume. If sounds and feels like a live album: as it should: any act who sound exactly the same live as in the studio may be musically accomplished, but fails to make the live ‘experience’ an actual experience. What matters most is that the separation between the sinewy, choppy guitar lines and elastic, funk-infused stop/start bass grooves is spot on.

Similarly, the concert visuals, whole shot from a number of cameras, is straight-ahead: dark, murky, primarily from a lower, audience vantage point. Budget? Maybe, although I’d prefer to watch something that replicates the actual experience of the live show, rather than some ponced-up, glossy fixed-up representation. My only criticism of the footage lies not with the footage itself – I can handle the wobbles and slightly amateurish hand-held pans – but the editing: the cuts are simply too fast, and the zooms on fretboards, etc., simply too… zoomy. With multiple angles to choose from, they haven’t always picked the best. Still, it’s watchable enough in a way fits with the rough ‘n’ ready, ‘as it was’ approach. Moreover, it sits with the band’s general ethos: this is no major-label, big-money production and no corporate exec’s coining it at the expense of hard-working artists.

The track listing draws from across their albums with the exception of Mall, although no-one’s going to be disappointed to see that Entertainment! Is well-represented, with ‘Love Like Anthrax’, ‘Damaged Goods’, ‘At Home He’s a Tourist’, ‘History’s Not Made by Great Men’ and ‘I Found That Essence Rare’ all featuring. The DVD also features ‘Return the Gift’, which doesn’t appear on the CD, as well as non-CD cut ‘I Love a Man in a Uniform’. They all sound great, spiky and urgent, ‘To Hell With Poverty’ as pertinent now as 38 years ago. Irrespective of their influence, Live… In the Moment shows that Gang of Four are very much a going concern, and a band who aren’t only relevant after all this time, but a cracking live act.

 

Gang of Four Live

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Makkum Records – MR18 – 11th June 2016

James Wells

Having existed in a number of variant forms since formation their formation over a decade ago, Kanipchen-Fit is currently Gloria (vocals), Empee Holwerda (guitar and vocals) and Frank Sloos (drums). Unfit For these Times Forever marks an evolution from their 2010 debut, not least of all because it features live drumming, which brings a very different dynamic to the sound.

But before we get to the sound, Unfit for These Times Forever is released on CD, DL and double 7”, and the physical formats come in a gatefold sleeve with a pop-up centre. It’s novel, and it’s also rather cool. The music’s pretty cool, too. Showcasing a dark post-punk infused indie rock sound. ‘How to Display a Flag’ is choppy, urgent, and is representative of the trio’s hefty sound with echoes of Husker Du and Gang of Four, combining ragged urgency and a funk edge. Holwerda’s guitar sounds like bass and guitar simultaneously.

Lyrical abstractions and oddness abounds, but these aspects are tempered by a personal and social sensibility. But then, Gloria’s background is in poetry and spoken word, and her background lies with New York performance collective Pussy Poets. ‘Residue’ finds Gloria unravelling her relationship with possessions that connect to people and the past in the context of peoples’ perceptions of others. ‘I wore my father’s jacket, it itched / I scratched, I got a rash / So I stopped wearing it,’ she recounts. There’s genius in the simplicity and the humanity of the words. Indeed, more than anything, what radiates from Unfit for These Times Forever is a sense of sincere humanity, and it’s paired with a quirky humour which isn’t only charming, but ensures the songs never move into the realm of po-faced politicking. Slanting guitars skew and jangle through the angular pop stylings of ‘Opening Ceremony’, and there’s even a hint of XTC and Pavement about closer ‘Unfit’, rounding off a record that balances unique and quirky with accessibility and depth. It has immediacy, but more than enough substance to give it durability. In other words, it’s got the lot, and is one of these rare beasts which functions – and succeeds – on every level.

Kanipchen-Fit  - Unfit

 

 

Kanipchen-Fit Online

PBP

Christopher Nosnibor

If the band’s name sounds a little odd in a quirky, absurd dada sort of a way, then it’s due in part to the translation. Initially formed as a post-punk band working under the name Dystopia, the bandmembers’ discovery of acts like the Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead, Interpol, The Smiths, and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion prompted a radical change of direction and a new name, which, I’m reliably informed (i.e. from the press release, not Google) translates as ‘shrimp whiskers’ in Italian. Ok, so it still doesn’t make much sense, but it’s certainly different.

The same is true of the Italian trio’s second long-player, pitched as ‘a concept album, a fantasy tale that explores environmental issues and animal rights.’ I respect and even admire that. These are big issues, and they’re more than merely political issues. Yet pop culture as a whole seems strangely removed from real culture. It’s very much a measure of the first-world late capitalist society that ‘culture’ can be a separate entity unto itself, and concerned with entertainment and personal emotions instead of things that matter, like, say, the state of the planet or the dominance of global corporations.

Not that much of this is apparent in their wild and often experimental alternative rock, which jolts and jars, lurches, scratches and scrapes. They don’t ape any of the aforementioned influences in any obvious way, and instead head out on a very long limb to create something that slaps the listener round the face with its otherness and a real sense of urgency. Nagging basslines and angular guitars explode in frenzied discord against drums that fire spasmodic rhythms in every direction.

A chunky, elastic bass guitar line worthy of Gang of Four underpins guitars that twitch and jerk every which way on ‘Mountaintop’, and the funk-tinged ‘Breakdown’ makes you want to dance and makes you feel tense at the same time. There are occasional moments of hippy-trippy psychedelia (‘Goodbye Zero’, for example), and jangle-centric indie (‘Something is Growing’), but despite gleaning snippets of lyrics about elephants and breaking the government, this doesn’t feel like an excessively preachy work, and it’s certainly not about gooey, wide-eyed idealism.

It is, however, wildly eclectic, and there’s some superlative drumming, not least of all on the explosive ‘Waterquake’ which combines harmonious melody with immense percussive firepower.

How much of the concept or the message you get is likely to vary, but there’s no missing the universal and utterly exhilarating delivery.

Moustache Prawn

https://www.youtube.com/embed/YORVelOf6Y4?list=PLTd0ejrxraFwNp7GWzSncgMUA_0XuFHlo

Moustache Prawn Online