Saturday, October 08, 2005

Breaking up the Gang, Livening up the Party

Gang of Four – Return the Gift (bonus remix CD) and Bloc Party – Silent Alarm remixed. One a mostly poor sets of renditions of a cult band by others who owe Go4 a debt, the other a sometimes brilliant set of Bloc versions from producers unafraid to take off in unexpected directions.

Some Go4 remixers, or bands playing cover versions, paid too much respect, whether they thought Go4 were a straight-ahead punk band with a neat line in sloganeering or a band that took a much more deconstructivist approach to popular music, to the extent that many add up to mere homage. In the first category, this includes Go Home, Ladytron (a similar semi-motorik delivery as on Silent Alarm rmxd), Tony Kanal, Phones (again, similar DFA-ness from Epworth on Silent Alarm) and The Rakes. In the second, Hot Hot Heat deliver a disastrous, if thankfully brief, On-U-sound/old hip-hop reconstruction of Damaged Goods, ironically. The best moments come from Fautline (Anthrax) and Amusement Parks on Fire (Why Theory?) – who alienate the jagged riffs and dislocate the words in dubbed out industrial zones, faithful to their own sonic stamp. And The Others take At Home He’s a Tourist into acceptable Clash-dub directions, suggestive that Dominic’s mob should concentrate more on production rather than lame guerrilla gigs.

So the best tracks on both CDs are those that vive la différence. But the moments of interest are more frequent on Silent Alarm – including Blackbox’s glitchy breakbeat drones (Positive Tension), M83’s emotive synth sweeps (Pioneers), Four Tet’s florescent etherealia on So Here We Are, Automato’s breakbeat infusion of The Price of Gasoline, DFA 79's techno-thrash on Luno. And the homages come off better too. Whitey homes in on and hones the danceable rock of Helicopter, for example.

Perhaps status – Go4 a cult act belatedly invested in the alternative rock canon, Bloc Party a decent enough band treading the 79-84 path but also one already blanding out, if their latest single is any evidence – does influence the reconstruction process. In the first too much respect does seem to have been paid to a band unlikely to ask for such reverence, while maybe the second are seen as a small fish in an increasingly deep pond, and therefore ripe for less care and more positive exploitation.

Go4 also returned the gift to themselves. The Gift’s main CD is Burnham, Gill, Allen and King’s muscular and largely simpatico reinterpretation of their best work. Like the recent spate of ATP-sponsored concerts whereby bands play the entirety of their seminal albums (Dinosaur Jr, Mudhoney), bands re-recording their classics could be part of another music industry diversification (therefore deepening of the revenue streams) wheeze. But if you want to hear some Go4, transport yourself back in time and place or make some other kind of (socialist) leap of the imagination, surely you reach for the old albums? Playing the Return the Gift remodelling, la musique pour la musique, is curiously association-free, an experience in isolation. Perhaps their extended gang won’t play this main CD much after the initial spins.

More on the Gang at recent gigs here and here. Our Leeds correspondent caught the East End Bloc early on and wrote about them too.

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