A touching tribute to a legend
Gang of Four, the legendary post-punk band whose career extends over 40 years, released their newest compilation album The Problem of Leisure: A Tribute to Andy Gill and Gang of Four after the death of Andy Gill, who created many of the songs on the record. While the double album was intended to mark the 40th anniversary of the band, with many artists covering tracks they believed were important to them, the band aimed to remix and re-record the instrumentals specifically for the album in celebration. However, after the passing of Andy Gill, the trajectory changed to celebrate his work with the band Gang of Four. The resulting product is a lengthy compilation of many respected artists across various genres. It is a powerful tribute to listen to, recognizing just how many people were influenced by Gang of Four.
Listening to the different interpretations of the same song was the most poignant part of the album, as it shows just how drastic talents can pull from the work of a singular artist. The opening track on both albums is “Damaged Goods,” covered first by IDLES and then by La Roux. IDLES tribute is much more characteristic to the punk sound, from its brazen lyric delivery to its heavier chord progressions. Much of their rendition aims to respect the original instrumentals, while still maintaining their heavier vocals (much more reminiscent of metal bands). The edge gives a more modern interpretation of the song, despite the instrumentals being more or less the same as the original, even if sped up.
La Roux, the electronic artist, has created a distinct rendition of the song by playing it to a more bossa-nova edge. Her delivery is less angry than IDLES yet maintains the same sort of resignation to lust present in the original single. If one declares that the track diverges far from the original, it is undeniable that there is a long-standing appreciation for the song itself. Even if there are more electronic influences under her belt, it highlights how transcendent the instrumentals and lyrics are beyond the punk genre and showcases the true talent of Gang of Four in their ability to touch so many lives.
Another example of this can be seen in the two renditions of “I Love a Man in a Uniform.” The first, by Herbert Grönemeyer and Alex Silva, is a bonafide ’80s tribute. With its signature hair metal ballad vocals and its electronic instrumentals, the track soars in transporting the listener into the past. The backing vocals also reiterate the sort of appreciation for the sound of the era. It is a danceable track, reworked in a way that shows just how distinct a sound it is.
By comparison, The Sounds take electronica in a different direction. It is more reminiscent of the vaporwave sound of the late 2010s, taking influence from the 1980s era but also making it their own. While they distinctly are the same song (with not as drastic changes as in “Damaged Goods”), the artists revisit the songs with their own edge, preventing the record from seeming repetitive.
One of the solo songs on the album is “Where the Nightingale Sings – Redux” by 3D and Nova Twins, which has a more atmospheric interpretation of the original. The remix has a powerful driving force that reinforces the darker themes of Gill’s work. The lyricism is truly highlighted here, with each artist using their own talents to truly bring to life the work of Gang of Four. In every track, an unexplored aspect of their work is taken into account, making it truly fascinating to listen to—as it gives justice to the original record.
The double album, The Problem of Leisure: A Tribute to Andy Gill and Gang of Four, stands as a testament to the great talents of Andy Gill in the band Gang of Four. While the origin of the album aimed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the band, the expansion to a celebration of life makes the album that much more meaningful to listeners. Even those beyond avid fans of Gang of Four can appreciate their work and celebrate the ways in which they have shaped the rock scene today.