Friday, January 8, 2010

Rolling Stone 500: (490) Entertainment! by Gang of Four [1979]

Gang of Four's offering from 1979, Entertainment!, is in the early lead to be my favorite record of the first fifth of Rolling Stone's list. So much funk and weirdness! They throw in some political/social commentary; the end result being an amazing record that makes you think and dance. But not me. I don't dance (or think either). A lot of this reminds me of Wire's first record, Pink Flag; a record I love. It does not have the varying sounds that record has however.

I guess the guitar on Entertainment! sounds "angular," whatever that means. It is a cool sound though. Now, I do suggest that as you listen to the songs you play them really loud. They sound much better that way.

The problem throughout the record is how much every song sounds like the one before it, almost to the point of being indistinguishable. Some of the songs stand out as simply better though. "Damaged Goods" is incredible as a love song of sorts dealing with the confusion between love and lust. And even then the amount of words in the song is minimal, but it gets the point across.

"I Found That Essence Rare" is the definition of political/social commentary with an insanely danceable beat. But the last fourth of the album, which happens to be the strangest and least danceable (although still pretty funky), stands as the best section of songs on the album.

"At Home He's a Tourist" deals with the banality of working class life. And as the characters in the song drive themselves off a cliff striving for normalcy, the guitar suddenly at times plays sporadically to great effect. Everything starts falling apart and the guitar overwhelms the lyrics as the song closes.

The following song, "5.45," continues that theme and adds in war criticism. A person watches a war unfold on television, dying people and all. The soldiers fight for what Gang of Four describes as "the bourgeois state," before finally breaking into a call of "Guerilla war struggle is a new entertainment."

And the album concludes with the best song, "Anthrax." By this time any bit of pop sensibility, mostly found in the drums and bass of the songs, is gone. About a minute-and-a-half of feedback starts the song and the drums and bass play a primitive beat. One voice drones on the main lyrics of the song while another voice rambles on about nothing much. It is a strange and unique effect. Every so often the voices join together for a couple of words, but then they continue on as if the other does not exist. The guitar solo is nearly all feedback.

"Anthrax" ends the record in crazy depressing fashion. But it is such a great song I want to listen to the record over again. At work I listen to this whole record a bunch so I can move faster. It has such a great beat, it is almost impossible not to move while it is on. Very, very good album and the best so far on the list. I guess that makes sense since we are moving up the list. Yeah. And if you buy this, try to get the expanded version. It includes some more really good songs, including a nice live version of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane."

Anthrax (This version is from an EP and is about a minute shorter. It omits some of the introductory feedback)

At Home He's a Tourist (Live in 2009)

Damaged Goods

Best songs: "Anthrax," "At Home He's a Tourist" and "Damaged Goods"
Worst songs: They are all pretty good, but "Contact" is easy to skip over.
Verdict: 4.6 out of 5 (officially a 4.5 on Rate Your Music)
Next up: Guitar Town by Steve Earle (Rate Your Music does not know what I'll give it, but the average is 3.86. It says it's a country album though and I don't like country at all. So we shall see)
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