In my last post I wrote about a bop-fusion transitional album by Donald Byrd as a way to take a deep dive into the trumpeter’s career. Byrd’s 1970s crossover jazz-funk work was castigated at the time but is now celebrated by new generations raised on hip-hop and chill out music. Ironically, it is Byrd’s 1960s acoustic jazz recordings, once well-respected, that are now unfairly overlooked. To paraphrase Brian De Palma — you are criticized against the fashion of the day and fashions change.
The same thing has not happened with Gang Of Four’s later recordings. There doesn’t seem to be any critical contingent out there reevaluating the work Gang Of Four put out after their initial two albums. Even the band members themselves are helping to further the narrative that what happened after their second LP is some heretical action in line with Sting’s post Police work or Jim Jones murdering his followers (and if you read music critics its Sting who committed the more serious crimes against humanity).
Instead, people who weren’t even born when Gang Of Four coined an entire swath of Post-Punk with their 1979 debut seem to get angry that the band didn’t stylistically freeze in 1979. Don’t worry — if the band did stay the same the very same people would castigate them for being one-trick ponies.
1983’s Hard was Gang Of Four’s initial swansong. It’s not a great album by any stretch but its not bad and it even has a few solid tracks on it. The first single from it, “Is It Love,” is a flat-out masterpiece, a classic that merges the sonic and thematic Gang Of Four esthetic with Chic for a sophisticated bedroom disco sound that achieves something worthy of late period Roxy Music. While most 1980s extended singles are wastes of time a number stand very tall. The extended 12′ mix of the Is It Love single still belongs in elite company.Continue reading