Gang of Four - Entertainment! (1979), 8/10

Gang of Four’s Entertainment! blends a wonderfully satisfying mixture of off the wall sound with exceptional songwriting. Much of the album excels in one or the other in isolation, but when the two components collide successfully, there is nothing more satisfyingly energizing. The best examples of this phenomenon being “Contract” and “Anthrax” with their choppy, nonsensical guitar licks and hooky vocal motifs. "Damaged Goods" is an example of pure songwriting strength that stands on its own. This is complemented by the underlying danceability of the record along with the outstanding, maniacal guitar work from Andy Gill. Truly not enough can be said of his performances on this album, they infuse the whole experience with life in a way that is undeniable and essential to its success. The modernist philosophical lyrics add an edge to some already fantastically written and arranged songs, only hindered by an overly consistent sound in much of the track list. This is broken up at key moments when the energy subsides, lending it just enough momentum to come through as an exceptionally fast listen through its smooth progression. The opener “Ether” is poetic and perfect as an initial entry into the band’s discography, and while the first four tracks ultimately make the album a bit frontloaded, “Contract” and “Anthrax” make the second half a forceful conclusion with perhaps more individually effective songs, and perhaps more daring experiments with sound and rhythm. Polyrhythms as a recurring structure and the band’s exceptional rhythm section as a unit in Dave Allen and Hugo Burnham give many songs their unique tinge of funky, complicated, jammy flavor. The consistency of the album, while at times irritatingly homogeneous, is ultimately a strength from a thematic standpoint and serves as an augmentation of the themes presented here. Musically, however, it is the reason I personally end up skipping many of the lesser tracks that do not have a strong rhythmic or melodic highlight such as “Glass” or “5-45”. This doesn’t take away from the vitality of the album experience enough to make it significantly weaker but holds it back from being one of the all-time greatest punk records. Still, there are some legendary songs in the mix, and it is an unquestionably vigorous and significant debut album.