Tuesday, March 29, 2011
On March 22nd, The Strokes released their fourth full length album Angles. Before you listen to the album, its title and album cover art (originally done by Belgian artist Guy Pouppez) should give you a good impression of what to expect from the band on their most recent studio effort. Angles was recorded differently than the bands previous releases, the band began working on demos in 2009. The Strokes then began work with producer Joe Chiccarelli in 2010 recording 18 songs, but the band were not happy with the results. Relocating to guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.’s home studio the band recorded and produced their album with the help of Gus Oberg. The album was recorded in an almost fractured like state, the band worked together more as a whole, while singer Julian Casablancas kept his distance, recording most of his vocals at Electric Lady Land Studios on his own. It has been said that this method was used by the singer, who has often been the dominant song writer in the group, to force the band into the creative process becoming more uniform and collective in the process. Out of the 18 songs that were demoed for this album, ten made the cut, only one of which originates from the bands sessions with Joe Chiccarelli.
Many critics hailed this album as a return to form when The Strokes released their first single from the album “Undercover of Darkness”. While the song is a return to form of sorts, it sounds as if it combines elements from the bands first album Is This It? with songs from their second album Room On Fire. The song could be described as “Last Nite” meets “Reptilia”. It is a strong song found on the album, which shows off many different colours, sometimes leaning in the experimental electronic sounding direction. As a whole, Angles is heavily rooted in the 80s, the first track “Machu Picchu” is a song that was originally conceived by guitarist Nick Valensi and has a Reggae flavour in the verses with Rock sounding choruses, sounding fresh and retro at the same time. The first line “I’m putting your patience to the test” is a declaration of what is to come musically, the songs are at times familiar sounding, at other times different leaning either in an 80s influenced or electronic influenced direction.
Critics have also been fast to attack the album, but it has many strong moments. “Two Kinds of Happiness”, another Valensi original sounds like an 80s song from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, exemplifying The Strokes slower, but catchy groove, while “Taken For A Fool” sounds like an outtake from The Strokes Room On Fire album, “Gratisfaction” is a guitar heavy track, sounding like classic Strokes, but at the same time sounding like a song that could have been on their last studio effort First Impressions of Earth, “Life Is Simple In The Moonlight” ends the album and ties up all the loose ends. It is an encompassing, catchy track with lingering synthesizers, dual guitar lines, and lyrics from Casablancas stating “Don’t try to stop us, get out of the way” that brings the album musically and lyrically full circle.
The experimental and different structured songs fill in the gaps providing variety and songs of different shades, this is evident on tracks such as “You’re So Right” a track penned by bassist Nikolai Frature that is dominated with its dark, but heavy electronic sounding drums and digital guitar lines, “Games” which has an 80s Caribbean stripes and 80s futuristic sounds, “Call Me Back” is a slower melodic track that at times seems a kin to Radiohead. During the bands five year hiatus, all of the bands members have created solo efforts, with the exception of guitarist Nick Valensi, but now The Strokes have returned with Angles an album of many eclectic shades and colours, but also one with elements that fans have come to identify and love. Currently The Strokes will embark on a tour, and have already been said to be in the early stages of their fifth album.
The Play List:
1. The Horrors - Gloves
2. The Gruesomes - Way Down Below
3. Main Line - Don't Wait Around
4. Them - Bright Lights, Big City
5. The High Numbers - I'm The Face
6. Love - Skid
7. 13th Floor Elevators - You're Gonna Miss Me
8. Arcylics - Molly's Vertigo
9. Les Breastfeeders - 400 Miles
10. Memphis - I Am The Photographer
11. Danny & The Rockin' Revelators - Forbidden Fruit
12. Radiohead - Give Up The Ghost
13. Harlem - Tila & I
14. The Mark Inside - You Can't Take Her With You When Its Over
15. Papermaps - Can't Make A Living
16. The Strokes - Gratisfaction
17. The Strokes - Life Is Simple In The Moonlight
18. The Crocodiles - Neon Jesus
19. The Atlantics - When You're Young
20. The Scraps - Gossip
21. Spiral Beach - After Midnite
22. Sick of Sarah - Over Exposure
23. Fire Engines - New Thing In Cartons
24. Dirty Pretty Things - You Fucking Love It
To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for March 29. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Abba meets The Stooges, bubblegum with fuzzy guitars, boy meets girl at 100 miles per hour, these are all sayings that have been attributed to The Pointed Sticks a Canadian Punk/Power Pop band from Vancouver. Pointed Sticks origins began upon the return of Nick Jones to Vancouver from the UK where he worked at a record store in the summer of 1978. Mixing the influential concoctions of the UK Punk scene with Pop music, the band would take influence from bands such as Buzzcocks, Ramones, Phil Spector, and 60s Garage acts such as The Sonics and Paul Revere & The Raiders. The original band consisted of Nick Jones (vocals), Bill Napier-Hemy (guitars), Tony Bardach (bass), and Ian Tiles on drums. Going through several names the band decided upon “The Pointed Sticks”, making reference to a Monty Python sketch. After winning the Second Georgia Straight Battle of Bands in 1978, The Pointed Sticks recorded their first single What Do You Want Me To Do?
The band was then signed to the famed UK label Stiff Records in the summer of 1979, being the first Canadian bands to do so. An EP followed titled the Out of Luck EP. Produced by Brinsley Schwartz, the EP featured re-recordings of songs the band had previously put out. The three songs included on the EP were “Out of Luck”, “What Do You Want Me To Do?” and had more of a Garage feel to them. The band was then exported to the UK to record a full length album for Stiff, but things didn’t go exactly as planned. Recording with producer Nigel Grey (The Police, Siouxsie & The Banshees), an album was completed, but Stiff decided not to release it. At this point, which was around 1980, Stiff was going through financial difficulties and preference went to bigger named acts, the album remained unreleased in its complete form until recently when The Pointed Sticks released it through Base Records in Tokyo.
Returning to Vancouver from England The Pointed Sticks headed into the studio with Bob Rock to record their full length album Perfect Youth. By this point, the band line up had altered yet again to include Scott Watson on bass and John Farano on Saxophone. The album is defined by songs such as “Marching Song” an ultimate Power Pop song featuring ringing Punk power chords and New Wave-pseudo Garage sounding keyboards, “No Use For U” a song that reflects a Soul Motown essence with its melodic basslines, drum beats and saxophone lines, and “American Song”, which is a mature sounding pop song that is one of the catchiest moments found on Perfect Youth. There are also other tracks such as “True Love”, which reflects the bands earlier sound, a cover of The Sonics "The Witch", and the album ender “Part of the Noise” which is razor edged Pop Perfection. Overall, Perfect Youth was a very melodic album adding a new dynamic to the band with smoother production style, brass horn sections and keyboard arrangements which contributed new elements to the bands Pop and Punk style. Comparisons have often been made between this album and Elvis Costello & the Attractions, and the keyboard playing of XTC’s Barry Andrews has been contrasted to Gord Nicholls, but the album is ultimately a culmination of the bands influences at that point in time. In 1980, the band were also featured in the Out of the Blue a cult-classic movie by Dennis Hopper. The band, who were a popular underground act in the Vancouver scene at the time can be seen performing at the end of the film. After a tour in August of 1981, the band began to dissolve. In June 1981, the band called it quits.
In 1995 a compilation was released on Zulu Records called Part of the Noise. This was a compilation album that contained rarities, unreleased recordings and some tracks from the unreleased Stiff album recording sessions, it also generated a renewed interest in the band. In 2005, Joey "Shithead" Keithley of Vancouver band DOA helped to release the compilation album Waiting For The Real Thing on Sudden Death Records. The album compiled all of the bands early singles with Quintessence as well as a variety of live recordings, and previously unreleased recordings from the Stiff album recording sessions. As a bonus the last track features two hidden songs, both covers. Following the song “Automatic You”, there is a version of Pointed Sticks doing “Born To Cry” by Dion and the Belmonts, and Del Shannon’s 1964 song “Keep Searchin’”. A re-issue of the bands full length album Perfect Youth followed the same year. This re-generated interest in the band, particularly in Japan. As a result, the band decided to play three reunion shows in Japan in 2006. The band line up consisted of the original line up featuring Ian Tiles on drums and Tony Bardach on bass. The shows went extremely well, which resulted in further live appearances and even talk of a new recordings. In 2007, The Pointed Sticks decided to record two new songs at Paramount, which was Gord Nicholls studio. The songs were “My Japanese Fan”, a catchy Power Pop hook filled song, and “Found Another Boy”, an older song written by Nicholls, but never recorded in a studio. The songs were released as a seven inch single on vinyl in 2007 on Sudden Death Records. The single marked the first time in 25 years that the band recorded new material. In 2008, the band recorded two new Christmas songs (“Power Pop Santa”, “Xmas Time Again”) and made them available for free on their website.
The Following interview was done between myself (Dave Konstantino host of Revolution Rock) and Nick Jones (of Pointed Sticks). He touches on several moments in the bands early career, their second album, and the bands future.
RR: The bands name originates from a Monty Python sketch, but you decided upon this name after going through several other names. What were some of the band names that you were interested in before finally choosing the name Pointed Sticks?
NJ: We didn't really go through too many names at the beginning. About the only one we even really considered was The Girls, cause it sounded kinda like the NY Dolls and then we could have worn tons of makeup, but then we found out that there was already a band in Seattle called that. At one point we had a drummer called Ernie Dick, so for a while it was Ernie Dick and the Pointed Sticks, but we booted him before our first gig, so we never actually played under that name.
RR: What are some of your favourite albums and which bands had a big influence on the bands early days?
NJ: Same as pretty much every other bunch of kids starting a punk band in 1978, but we also liked the Buzzcocks, who weren't real well known yet, and also tons of 60's pop and garage music. We loved Phil Spector, Motown, Bubblegum music, and stuff like Paul Revere and the Raiders, and the Sonics. Our first few gigs were all covers, things like It Hurts To Be In Love by Gene Pitney, done at double speed...
RR: You were signed to Stiff Records in the UK, how did that occur?
NJ: They had heard our Quintessence singles, and wanted to have a presence in North America. So they signed us, Any Trouble, and the Feelies. We also had interest from Sire, but went with Stiff so we could record in England.
RR: Could you describe the sessions that you did for Stiff in the UK? When did they occur and why did they remain unreleased for so long?
NJ: The session took place in Jan/Feb 1980. First off, they had picked totally the wrong producer for us. Nigel Gray, the guy who had done the Police records. He was a nice guy, but he only knew one sound, and he wanted us to sound like the Police. He rearranged a bunch of songs, used horrible thin sounds, and generally was pretty unsympathetic to our ideas. We had asked for Nick Lowe, but our requests fell on deaf ears. Also at this time, Stiff was in the process of going bankrupt. They had way over extended themselves financially, and the problems of 5 kids from Vancouver didn't really register very highly on the importance chart for them. The Feelies album actually came out, but got no support and died a horrible death. Ours never came out at all, until we bootlegged it ourselves 28 years later!! Available on Base Records from Tokyo!
RR: The band worked with Bob Rock on three of your earlier singles and the full length album Perfect Youth. What was it like working with Bob and do you still keep in contact with him at all?
NJ: We saw him a couple of years ago when we were making 3 Lefts, but don't really keep in touch with him. He's a swell guy, and very talented. To be honest, I think he learned a lot about how to produce records from working with us. They were the first records to have his name as producer on them, and we all were very much into doing anything to make the song better, even if it was something way outside the normal record making procedure. We put mikes in stairwells, turned tape upside down and used weird instruments. We had a ton of fun in the studio with him, and it’s probably still our most fun place to be, even though we've grown to love playing live. That used to be pretty torturous for us back in the day, mostly because I bought into the role of tortured artist...ha ha ha!!!
RR: The Pointed Sticks were featured in the Dennis Hopper Cult classic Out of the Blue. How did the band get connected with Hopper and was it like meeting/working with Dennis Hopper?
NJ: The producers of the film kind of used us, being the most popular underground band in Vancouver at the time, as a draw for the free concert that they filmed for inclusion in the movie. It was a freezing cold day, and about 600 kids were made to wait outside in the cold for 3 hours until they opened the doors at 6pm. Then a few bands including us and the Dishrags swapped sets until about 12:30 when Dennis and his gang of coked out cowboys arrived to film the wreckage. By that time, much alcohol had been consumed, and everybody was on edge, so the weirdness you see in the movie is honest....I love the movie, it’s very dark and a great snapshot of a city that no longer exists....recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Blue Velvet.
RR: Could you elaborate on the recording of the My Japanese Fan single that was released in 2007? How did the songs come about (My Japanese Fan and Found Another Boy) and where/when was it recorded?
NJ: MJF came about because we got tired really quickly of playing nothing but our old songs, after we had re-united in 2006 for the trip to Japan. We felt that unless we could actually do something new, that it would be boring and pointless to keep playing. Found Another Boy was an old song of Bills that we had never recorded way back when, and I really liked it. It reminds me of Be My Lover by Alice Cooper! MJF was Gords idea initially, but everyone in the band contributed at least one line to the lyrics and I think it’s a great pop song. It was recorded at Paramount, which is Gords studio.
RR: How was the recording process different when making Three Lefts Make A Right as opposed to recordings that you have done in the past. Is the song writing process any different than your previous efforts?
NJ: Well, because we recorded at Gords place, we had a lot more time to re-do things until we were happy with the performances. We also spent a full year doing demos before we recorded the final product, which gave us the chance to refine the songs down to their essence. We’ve never been much of a jam band, we like to say what we've got to say in as concise a way as possible. We also recorded most of our parts separately, due to work and family commitments, it was different, but necessity is the mother of invention, they say! As for the songwriting, Gord gave me a demo with a whole ton of ideas on it, and I messed around with them and gave them back, then he messed around some more, then we demoed them together until we were happy with what we had. On Tony and Bills songs, they brought them in to me and Gord arranged them a bit and changed a few little things, got the thumbs up, and went from there.
RR: What are the future plans for The Pointed Sticks?
NJ: Well, we have some new songs that we've slowly been working on, but everyone is very busy. Hopefully by the end of the year we'll have something new to share with the world. And the songs are different than 3 Lefts, a bit more experimental, I would say. And we might play again soon, or we might not. It will evolve the way it’s meant to be. We are all great friends, and when we do get together, it’s a great time, so I'm sure that the world hasn't seen the last of the Pointed Sticks yet...
RR: When I interviewed Ross Carpenter (of Active Dog) he mentioned a band that you (Nick) played in a band called The Melody Pimps. Could you elaborate more on this band?
NJ: Melody Pimps are a fuck band, one of many great Vancouver fuck bands and I think that to understand this properly, you should go to the appropriate webisode on the "Bloodied But Unbowed" website....all will be revealed.
Links of interest:
Pointed Sticks Official Website
Pointed Sticks Myspace Page
Pointed Sticks Facebook Page
This Week's Play List:
1. The Pointed Sticks - Marching Song
2. Simply Saucer - Dance The Mutation
3. Johnny West - Some Are Salt
4. Wildlife - When I Get Home
5. Justin Faubert - Evolution
6. What Seas What Shores - Cordyceps
7. Beekeeper - There's A Reason
8. Kman and the 45s - Nine Lives (Part 1)
9. The Nefidovs - Animal Love (Demo)
10. Tom Norcott Trio - Just Don't
11. Michel & The French Canadians - Cause I Believe
12. The Ugly Ducklings - 10:30 Train
13. The Hung Jury - Except the Whisky
14. The Locusts Have No King - Cruelty is King
15. Deja Voodoo - Red Garlic Shoes
16. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Bennet Cerf
17. The Pointed Sticks - Lies
18. Blue Peter - Do The Robot
19. The Government - Paranoid Downtown Funk Pt.2
20. Private School - Rock and Roll Radio
21. The Shades - New Clientelle
22. Active Dog - Nothing Holding You
23. No Fun - Old
24. The Pointed Sticks - My Japanese Fan
25. The Pointed Sticks - The Real Thing
26. The Pointed Sticks - Keep Searchin'
To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for March 22. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.
My show Revolution Rock, is nominated for the best Indie/Alternative/Rock show for CJAM's annual Jammy Awards. If you're a listener of the show or visit this website, my show could use your support. You can vote here.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
It is time once again for CJAM Jammy Award voting. Each year around this time, CJAM holds a ballot and the show in each category with the most votes will win a Jammy award. Several shows that CJAM has to offer are nominated for a variety of categories. You can vote for your favourite CJAM shows by clicking the link below or the picture above. My show Revolution Rock, is nominated for the best Indie/Alternative/Rock show. If you're a listener of the show or visit this website, my show could use your support. Vote here.
In 1975, Iggy Pop teamed up with James Williamson to write and record the album that was to become Kill City. Initially intended as demos for them to shop around for a record deal, the album was recorded at a mid-point in Iggy Pop’s career. He was at the time in a mental hospital dealing with heroin addictions, released on weekends to record vocals for Kill City. The album is often cited as the missing link between Raw Power and Iggy Pop’s 1977 album The Idiot. Musically it was unlike anything in Iggy’s catalogue, the album incorporates an undeniable Rolling Stones influence often at times reflecting soulful elements, but at the same time it also includes electronic synthesizers that can be seen as a pre-cursor to future Iggy Pop solo material. Looking at the musicians that contributed to the album there is Scott Thurston on bass and keyboards, he would later appear on the Iggy Pop album New Values before going on to play with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in the 90s. There is also the Sales brothers (Tony and Hunt) on the last two tracks, who would be featured as musicians on the 1977 album Lust For Life.
The album features songs such as “Beyond The Law” a song heavily drenched with soul horn sections and energetic guitar riffs, drum fills and vocals, “I Got Nothin’”, and “Johanna” two songs which were played with James Williamson-era Stooges in 1973-74, “Consolation Prizes” a stand out heavier track with its country fried Rollng Stones style riffs, and “No Sense of Crime” which is a slower track. There are also instrumental tracks “Night Theme” and “Master Charge” which is a heavy synthesized track written by Scott Thurston. There is also the title track “Kill City” which sets the mood for the album from the get-go, with its saxophones, guitar riffs and lyrics which depict a fallen metropolis. Out of the eleven tracks found on Kill City three of them are instrumentals, eight of them feature lyrics. While it is obvious that the music is different from The Stooges, it sounds like a natural progression and lyrically “has something to say” as Iggy Pop states in the albums linear notes.
In October 2010, Kill City was re-released after being remixed, restored and remastered by James Williamson and engineer Ed Cherney at Capitol Records in Hollywood. Now Kill City sounds as guitarist James Williamson states “like it should have sounded all along”. Since the Raw Power–era Stooges reunion featuring James Williamson on guitar, many of these songs from Kill City are now being played live for the first time. With the album restored fans can now re-appreciate Kill City as it was originally intended to sound.
The Play List:
1. Iggy Pop & James Williamson - Consolation Prizes
2. The Bamboo Kids - Nothing To Do
3. Northern Primitive - Space Traveller
4. Rambos - Arrows
5. Mink Deville - She's So Tough
6. The Action - TV's On the Blink
7. The Bureaucrats - She's An American
8. The Negatives - Echoes
9. The Beladeans - 1000 Mile House
10. Flying Fox & The Hunter Gatherers - Vanity
11. Iggy Pop & James Willaimson - No Sense of Crime
12. The Blue Stones - I'm A Stereo
13. Dum Dum Girls - He Gets Me High
14. My Dad Vs Yours - Carry That Weight
15. Crystal Stilts - Shake the Shackles
16. Jesus and the Mary Chain - Blues From A Gun (Live)
17. Fang - The Money Will Roll Right In
18. Iggy Pop & James Williamson - I Got Nothin'
19. The Vaccines - Blow It Up
20. Public Image Limited - The Cowboy Song
21. The Hives - Nasty Secretary
22. The Hellacopters - Where The Action Is
23. Orange Juice - Blue Boy
24. Iggy Pop & James Williamson - Kill City
To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for March 15. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.
NOTE: If you are looking for this show, check the comments section.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Perhaps best known for their 1966 hit single 7 and 7 Is and their 1967 critically acclaimed album Forever Changes, Love was an American Rock band that helped to define the Psychedelic Rock-era. The two main song writers in the group were Arthur Lee and guitarist Bryan MacLean. MacLean left the group in 1968. They were signed to Elektra Records that were initially active from the mid 60s until the mid 70s. Before Love disbanded, an album was recorded in 1973 titled Black Beauty, but it was never released because the label that was due to release it went bankrupt and the album never saw official release. The album that was produced by Paul Rothchild, who is known for his work with the band Love and other Elektra artists such as The Doors, is said to have a “steamy R&B sound with a heavy guitar punch” by Rolling Stone writer David Fricke. Now, High Moon Records are going to issue the album in June 2011 in all formats. They have also provided me with a FREE mp3 for download from the upcoming release. Enjoy!
Love - Skid
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Siouxsie and The Banshees originally formed in 1976 in England, at first the two main members in the group were Siouxsie Sioux on vocals and Steven Severin on bass. The band went through a few line up changes before they found Kenny Morris on drums and John McKay on guitar, an early drummer for the group was John Simon Ritchie who you may know better as Sid Vicious. After playing several sold out venues in London in 1978, Siouxsie and The Banshees signed to Polydor Records and began recording their first single.
Hong Kong Garden was recorded with band manager Nils Stevenson producing and Steve Lillywhite on engineering duties over a two day period. Initially the song, which was demoed the previous year as a song called “People Phobia”, was not intended to be recorded as a single at all. The song would become known as “Hong Kong Garden” and it became a popular live favourite. Prior to the band signing with Polydor, they decided to record this song as a single on their managers suggestion. The songs origins came from a Chinese food take out restaurant in England. Siouxsie Sioux explained the song in detail during an interview with Pop Top Ten Interview in August of 2001:
“I'll never forget, there was a Chinese restaurant in Chislehurst called 'The Hong Kong Garden'. Me and my friend were really upset that we used to go there and like, occasionally when the skinheads would turn up it would really turn really ugly. These gits were just go in en masse and just terrorise these Chinese people who were working there. We’d try and say 'Leave them alone', you know. It was a kind of tribute”.
While the song and band has often been associated with several other late 70s Punk acts, the song was quite different, falling into the Post-Punk genre. “Hong Kong Garden” featured choppy and erratic guitar work with a throbbing bassline that at times sounds like a speeding train. Along with its unique narrative style, the song came off as an exhilarating original song and an important Post-Punk single. It would go to number seven on the UK singles charts. The B-side to this track was a song “Voices (On The Air)”. The Banshees released their debut full length album The Scream later in the same year, but “Hong Kong Garden” was not included. It would eventually be released on the CD re-issue of The Scream in 2005 and on a variety of compilation albums, the first being Once Upon A Time: The Singles in 1981.
This Week's Play List:
1. Yeah Yeah Yeah's - Our Time
2. Shoneen Knife - Twist Barbie
3. Sleater-Kinney - I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone
4. The 188.8.131.52's - I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield
5. Love Me Nots - Come On Over
6. Blondie - X Offender
7. The Dears - Blood
8. The Yulas - Tiny Head
9. The Babies - Meet Me In The City
10. The Swallows - Shoot Out the Sparks
11. The Dishrags - Past Is Past
12. The Runaways - Cherry Bomb
13. Destroy All Monsters - Bored
14. X-Ray Spex - I Am Cliche
15. Lost Patrol - Blow Me Away
16. The Cinch - Mystery Train
17. The Vaselines - Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam
18. Velvet Underground - I'm Sticking With You
19. Hotels - Smith Lands on the Casino Planet
20. Young Rival - All I Have To Do Is Dream
21. Sloan - Follow The Leader
22. New York Dolls - Trash
23. Siouxsie and the Banshees - Hong Kong Garden
24. The Cramps - Teenage Werewolf
To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for March 8. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.
Or it can be downloaded here.
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
In 1977, Jon King (vocals), Andy Gill (guitar), Dave Allen (bass) and Hugo Burnham on drums formed a group that would be known as Gang of Four. Meeting at Leeds University in England, (although King and Gill knew each other from their school days in Kent) the group would have a very definitive sound that would be eventually described as Post-Punk. The sound of the band can be best described by their jagged guitar like sounds, which has been said to have been influenced by the guitar stylings of Wilko Johnson (of Dr. Feelgood). Combined with elements of Funk, the Staccato playing of Andy Gill would be coupled with the prominent bass and drum combo of Dave Allen and Hugo Burnham for quite a unique sound. There was also a large political element attached to the bands lyrics, their music could perhaps be best described as political essays with musical backdrops. The bands name originates from a newspaper article about the intra-party coup Gang of Four, that was decided upon while driving around with a member of The Mekons, who has been said to have named the band.
The bands first release was the Damaged Goods EP, which featured the songs “Damaged Goods”, “Anthrax”, and “Armalite Rifle”. The songs were recorded in June 1978 and produced by Bob Last, Tim Inman, and The Gang of Four. When the single was released in December 1978 on the Fast Product label based out of Edinburgh, it went to number one on the UK indie charts. The title track on the EP, “Damaged Goods” is a slow, Funk rhythm fuelled song, mixed in with Andy Gill’s Staccato, Jagged guitar sounds. It differs from the version that would be later found on their full length debut Entertainment! The song is essentially a love song lyrically, but with words dealing in sexual politics. “Anthrax” is the second track on the EP. It is a song with primarily bass and drums, and noise filled distortion floating in between the rhythm at varying points. The song starts off with Psychedelic feedback before setting into the funky bass and drum rhythms of Allen and Burnham, it also features Jon King singing in one channel, and Andy Gill in the other causing a dizzying effect for the listener. The third track on the EP “Armalite Rifle” is the anti-gun, anti-violence song which contrasts deep Soulful basslines with ragged Post-Punk guitar chords.
In 1979, Gang of Four began making recordings for what to was become their first full length album, Entertainment! The album was released in September of 1979 on EMI Records in the UK and on Warner Brothers in the US. Entertainment! addressed many issues of a political nature, often attacking the commercial media. Musically, the album harnessed the energy and influence of 70s Punk while incorporating elements of Funk, and subtle influences of Dub and Reggae. As with the bands debut Damaged Goods EP, bass is very prominent in the mix, there is also the unique angular staccato guitar style of Andy Gill that at times sounds like jagged shards of glass, coupled with Jon King’s politically charged lyrics.
Songs such as “Natural’s Not In It” adheres to themes of anti-consumerism, “Not Great Men” discusses Great Man Theory, which is a concept that relates to history being impacted by “great men” or heroes resulting in control over the average person, “Return The Gift” poses the problem of what do with ones leisure and the commercialisation of it, and “I Found That Essence Rare” deals with the selfishness of media and politicians. The album also features re-recordings of the songs “Damaged Goods” and “Anthrax”, which ends Entertainment! in its Psychedelic noise and lyrics which compares love to being “Like a beetle on its back”. The first single released form the album, “At Home He’s A Tourist” features lyrics addressing youth culture, fashion, and its commercials aspects that dance amongst the heavy bass, drums and harsh guitar tones. It went to number 58 on the UK singles charts, but caused some conflict when the band was asked to appear on the Top of the Pops television program. They were asked to change the word “rubbers” to “rubbish” to avoid offending others, Gang of Four refused to change the lyrics and as a result their appearance on the program was cancelled.
The artwork to Entertainment! was designed by Jon King and Andy Gill. It emphasizes the lyrical content harnessed on the album, but also at the same time makes a point in describing the social political conflict often found in mainstream media, using the metaphor of “Cowboys and Indians”. In addition to the political themed lyrics on Entertainment!, it also draws on common relationships, but they are brought up in a different way. The album also conveys how a lot of things in life can be seen as entertainment whether it is war or politics, which the band alludes to with an insightful nature. Entertainment! lives up to its title. It went to number 45 on the UK album charts, and in 1980 the second single from Entertainment! “Damaged Goods” was released. It went to number 39 on the US singles charts. In 1980, Gang of Four also released a four track EP that is referred to as the Yellow EP. The four songs featured on this album are “Outside the Trains Don’t Run On Time”, “He’d Send in the Army”, “It’s Her Factory” and “Armalite Rifle”. The last track is a re-recording of the song the same name originally found on the bands Damaged Goods EP in 1978.
With 1981’s Solid Gold, Gang of Four drove deeper into to a Funk and Dance based musical groove with radically charged political lyrics. There are songs such as “What We All Want” that questions the consumption of consumer based products, with lyrics like “Could I be happy with something else?/I need something to fill my time” that float in amongst the funkified basslines and chugging guitar work. The song would also go to number 30 on the US Hot Club Dance Play charts in the US when released as a single. “Cheeseburger” is a song that attacks the consumerisation of American fast food chains with its stop and start rhythmic patterns and razor sharp guitar parts, “A Hole in the Wallet” tackles the monotony of the 9 to 5 job and adheres to a slower groove musically, “He’d Send in the Army” is found in re-recorded form here with its military like intro and guitar parts that sound like rifles, lyrically it addresses questions posed by warfare. Other tracks such as “Why Theory?” and “Paralyzed” help to define this album. As a whole Solid Gold further develops the ideas that were introduced on Entertainment! in an intelligent, uncompromising manner with a new Dance like musical palate. Solid Gold would go to number 52 on the UK album charts and to number 190 on the US Pop charts.
In January of 1982, the Another Day/Another Dollar EP was released in the US. The EP featured two tracks that were previously only available in the UK (“To Hell With Poverty”, “Capital (It Fails Us Now”), "History's Bunk!" the B-side of the “What We All Want” single and two live recordings. “To Hell With Poverty” is an extremely catchy track with an unavoidable groove to it, while lyrically it contextualizes the frustration of the working classes. The melodic elements of this song can be seen as a sign of things to come for the band musically. Following an American tour, bassist Dave Allen exited the group, he was replaced by Busta “Cherry” Jones who would only be in the group briefly before being replaced by Sara Lee, who was a bassist in Robert Fripp’s League of Gentlemen. With Lee’s bass and singing ability, which would be evident on the bands next release, Gang of Four moved forward with their third full length album, Songs of the Free that was released in 1982.
Gang of Four returned to music with the 1991 album Mall. The album was smoothly produced by King and Gill (who were the only original members of the band to return at this point), and emphasized synthesizer and Funk based rhythms while adding more of their classic Political lyrical output to the songs. Shrinkwrapped was released in 1995, it built on the bands previous sounds, standing different from 1991’s Mall. In 2004, the original line up of Gang of Four, featuring Hugo Burnham on drums and Dave Allen on bass reunited for some live shows. In 2005 a new album appeared, but not an album composed of new material. An album was released featuring re-recordings of songs that were originally found on the albums Entertainment!, Solid Gold, and Songs of the Free, it was entitled Return the Gift, it was well received. The band continued to tour intermittently until 2008, where bassist Dave Allen left the group following Hugo Burnham who left the group in 2006. With Mark Hearny on drums and Thomas McNeice on bass, Gang of Four continued to tour off and on.
In January 2011, Gang of Four unleashed their seventh full length album titled Content. The album has been exclaimed as a return to form for the band, and that’s exactly what it is. The razor sharp jagged guitar playing of Andy Gill is there along with the many rhythms and lyrical content that helped the band to define Post Punk, which for the past three decades has gone onto to highly influential proportions in the Indie and Punk music genres. Several of the songs found on Content can be identified with previous markers that Gang of Four have set in the sands of the past, “I Party All The Time” has been compared to song structures originally found on the song “I Love A Man In A Uniform” from the album Songs of the Free, minus the 80s production, “Who Am I?” evokes a Motown influence and features lyrics such as “You can’t steal when everything is free”. “You’ll Never Pay For The Farm” is a standout track on the album,sounding like an outtake from Entertainment! The song questions the ludicrousness of everyday life in traditional Gang of Four social satire. Content while it does have elemental features of work the band has become known for in the past, it does not sound like another band going through the motions, instead it shows Gang of Four doing what they do best making music their way with their own style.
This Week's Play List:
1. Gang of Four - I Party All The Time
2. Luger Boa - Paralyzed
3. Motorhead - Rock and Roll Music
4. Eve Hell & The Razors - Big River
5. Johnny West - Purgatory Waltz
6. Johnny West - Everything Matters, Everyone Cares
7. Crissi Cochrane - Separate Cities
8. Dinosaur Bones - Royalty
9. Mother Mother - Simply Simple
10. Cut/Copy - Where I'm Going
11. Radiohead - Little By Little
12. Wire - Now Was
13. Gang of Four - I Love A Man In A Uniform
14. Gang of Four - Return The Gift
15. Tim Ray & AV - Quarter To Eight
16. The Subway Sect - Rock and Roll Even
17. The Prefects - Things in General
18. The Teardrops - Teenage Vice
19. Bok Bok - Come Back To Me
20. The Police - Truth Hits Everybody
21. The Adverts - One Chord Wonders
22. Gang of Four - Damaged Goods (EP Version)
23. Gang of Four - You'll Never Pay For The Farm
To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for March 1. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.