Return the Gift

Entertaining review of the "new" Gang of Four album:

Instead of recording an album of new material like most reformed bands do, they've rerecorded 14 Gang of Four classics cherry-picked from albums such as Entertainment!, Solid Gold, and Songs of the Free. It's hard to think of a precedent in rock history for Return -- essentially, a band recording its own tribute album.

Return the Gift places in plain, unavoidable sight the redundancy and reconsumption involved in rock's nostalgia market. When fans buy new albums by reformed favorites of their youth, at heart they're hoping for a magical erasure of time itself. They're not really interested in what the band might have to say now, or where the band members' separate musical journeys have taken them in subsequent decades; they want the band to create "new" songs in their vintage style. Such consumer bad faith is precisely the kind of phenomenon that the old Gang of Four enjoyed skewering. Could it be that Return is saying, "You want a Gang of Four resurrection? Here you are, then, exactly what you secretly, deep-down crave: the old songs, again."


17 Responses:

  1. krick says:

    Suicidal Tendencies and Anthrax both did it.
    I'm sure there have been others.

    • evan says:

      The newer ST album was surprisingly disappointing. I think, especially for that sort of music, the sloppiness was part of the style, and when they returned to it later they did it far too, uh, professionally.

      • billemon says:

        While there's a massive irony to "they did it too good" aimed at a recording artist, I think you're right; I will always prefer the "Master of Puppets" sound to later Metallica, although in fairness the S&M take on that (very professionally done) still rocked.

        It's a balancing act: being "artistic" and "real" without sacrificing quality where it's appropriate ... whereas the "I did this in my garage sound" is annoying if only because it's, well, old.

  2. buz says:

    Good for them to realize it.

    Some bands move on and take their fans with them, or gain new ones as they progress. A lot more end up fighting their own past.

    Wire had a Wire cover band open for them who played all their old stuff so the kids could get satisfied.

    Oh yeah - and Johnny Rotten->John Lydon->Johnny Rotten anyone?

    • fo0bar says:

      Or you could do what TMBG did and play their own cover band, opening for, well, themselves, and covering their own old songs.

      • jwz says:

        I heard a rumor that the members of Duran Duran used to secretly enter "Duran Duran lookalike" contests.

        • asan102 says:

          Charlie Chaplain once entered a Charlie Chaplain Look-alike contest. He came in third.

          (Useless fact from the lame "Movie Trivia" page-a-day calendar I recieved for my birthday)

    • jchack says:

      Ex Lion Tamers, I liked them better than wire.

      • buz says:

        I forgot the name.
        I think it was because Wire at one time refused to play any old material. And I think they later reversed that decision.

  3. jerronimo says:

    "The Mix" by Kraftwerk was like that too. Lots of old songs, some from 20 years prior, redone in their newer, dancier, polished style.

    That's one of the reasons I love their Live album from last year. It's got a whole bunch of classics not covered by "The Mix", but done in their newer style. In their case though, they added a lot to the songs, while keeping the arrangements and structure of the songs fairly simple...

  4. substitute says:

    They've realized they're Neil Diamond. Unlike Wire or the Soft Boys they aren't self-deluding about their new material.

    On a similar subject, has anyone seen tribute bands of tribute bands yet? I know they've got to be out there.

  5. bdu says:

    Kraftwerk and Front 242 both beat them to it, returning from long periods without any new releases by putting out an album of re-recorded old songs.

  6. decklin says:

    I've been listening to the MP3 from insound and it's just... weird. Good, but weird.

    (Weird in a "this experience is weird" way, not a "sounds weird" way.)

  7. rasp_utin says:

    The Mission UK also did this with their "Resurrection" CD, a collection of their own redone classics... and in that case, "here you are, then, exactly what you secretly, deep down crave" was indeed what they were most likely saying.

    ...and saying it yet again, when the same label reissued the same CD five years later under the title, "The Best of the Mission UK."

  8. Well, if one wants new Gang Of Four-esque songs, one can just buy a Franz Ferdinand CD.

  9. udhay says:

    Somebody already mentioned that Anthrax has done this. So has Saxon.