When I first heard there was a new Gang Of Four LP coming out, I, like most I expect, was totally confounded. The political post-punk pioneers originally disbanded in 1983, then again in 1997, before reforming in 2004 and slowly haemorrhaging members. Much has been made in the press about the fact that the only remaining original member on board for 'What Happens Next', the 'gang's' eighth album of original material and first since 2011, is Andy Gill; the band's pioneering guitarist. But whether this is an authentic Gang of Four release or not is beside the point; all Gill needs to do is not leave a giant skid mark on a largely respectable legacy. The main problem with 'What Happens Next' is not the authenticity of it, it is just that it isn't a particularly good album.
For the most part on 'What Happens Next', gone are the danceable, slinky, distinctive bass lines and in their place are the digital bleeps and boops and synth stylings of a sub-par Nine Inch Nails. It seems like somebody gave Gill a copy of 'The Downward Spiral' and he felt inspired to take it as a blueprint for his new direction. Even Gill's signature guitar tone is notable for its absence for most of the LP. The album's opener, 'Where the Nightingale Sings' is minimalistic and sinister, but despite a few sparing scratches of guitar, it bears no resemblance to anything that has gone before. There's no urgency like 'Damaged Goods', there's no lyrics to make you think like 'I Love a Man in Uniform', and there's no groove like 'At Home He's A Tourist'. It is, quite frankly, limp.
The album carries on in this vein, with songs which are pleasant enough plod-alongs but that don't really scratch the itch. Not even Alison Mosshart can save the derivative disco rock of 'Broken Talk'. 'The Dying Rays' is a slow, warm ballad that even seems to convey a tone of hope. But Gang of Four isn't supposed to make you feel comfortable, and it just comes off as confused and out of place.
To give 'What Happens Next' its due, there is a couple of cool tunes here such as 'Obey The Ghost' which has a great chorus and 'Stranded', which is skittery and claustrophobic but sadly not all that memorable: a common issue with most of the album.
The album closes with 'Staubkorn', a German version of the aforementioned, mediocre 'The Dying Rays' which is totally superfluous to requirements. It begs the question of just what is the point of 'What Happens Next'? What is even the point of trotting out the corpse of Gang of Four for another go round? The original Gang of Four inspired everyone from Jane's Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers to Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party. This dishwater grey affair will inspire nobody.
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