With an eerily similar economic and political climate to that of 1979, you could argue that now seems the perfect time for Gang Of Four to release their first material in sixteen years.
It was just weeks after Thatcher’s ascendance to power that four fine art students from Leeds unleashed a danceable alternative to punk in the form of debut album ‘Entertainment!’, widely regarded as the defining post-punk artefact. Publicly praised by Michael Stipe and Kurt Cobain, and an influence on bands from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Bloc Party, they’ve returned with their first album in sixteen years, ‘Content’, copies of which even come with a sample of Jon King and Andy Gill’s own blood.
A mad-eyed King paces the stage tonight arms flailing in front of a sea of predominantly receding hairlines with as much agility and enthusiasm as a young punk would have. At one point, he pauses to reflect on his last visit to Heaven on the night of ‘The Great Storm’ in October 1987, after which he emerged onto Villiers Street and walked directly into the path of two oncoming trees. He later enhances the percussion on a glorious reading of ‘He’d Send In The Army’ by beating the crap out of a microwave oven with a stick. Damaged Goods, indeed.
Ensuring this is no reunion purely for nostalgia’s sake, ‘You’ll Never Pay For The Farm’ and ‘I Party All The Time’, full of jagged, razor-sharp guitars and lyrical venom, sit surprisingly comfortably with older favourites, whilst ‘Anthrax’ and ‘I Love A Man In Uniform’ remain as provocative and as relevant today as they did three decades ago. King later bemoans the fact we have a “reactionary government crushing the poor” before hurtling headlong into a spirited ‘To Hell With Poverty’. As a rallying cry and a beautiful wreck of nervous energy, it’s as good a reason as any for Gang Of Four to continue to exist, and as the bass reverberates into Heaven’s darkest corners, you can almost smell revolution in the air.
By Kevin Robinson
Gang of Four at Heaven was the first gig in the month long NME Awards Show series. See the rest of the month's lineup here.