Classic Album Review: Gang of Four — Entertainment! (1979)


Considered one of the greatest albums to come out of the British post-punk period (1979-1984), Entertainment! is an album of grim politics, alienation, and loathsome sexuality. However it is also an album that musically breaks out from the typical 12…1234 cadence of most punk albums. Ambitious in scope, leftist in its politics, jarring in its music, Entertainment! is one of my favorite albums from the 1970’s and one that sounds just as vital today as it did over 30 years ago.

One of the first things one notices upon playing Entertainment! is that it is funky. The bass is deep and heavy throughout and the album is extremely danceable. In fact a popular Minneapolis band from the early 1980’s, The Phones, covered two songs from this album and would fill the dance floor singing Damaged Goods and I Found that Essence Rare (good thing we weren’t listening to the lyrics, as they are somewhat of a downer). Besides the bass, the guitar work also deserves mention. Always jarring, at times sounding like china busting up into shards in an all-tile bathroom, the guitars were played in a way that was never heard on a major label album and have been copied many times since.  Vocally, the lyrics are sung in that deadpan, affected British accent that was made popular by other British bands like Wire and Joy Division.  The album ends with Anthrax, with its feedback-heavy wailing guitars while two different lyrics are being sung-spoke in each ear (one is basically a treatise on why Gang of 4 doesn’t do love songs).  Amazingly enough, the original single has even harsher guitars (yes I have the single too).

Even if you don’t want to listen to the lyrics, the album is a great listen either alone or at a party. It really is the high water mark of those art-school educated British bands that came out in the late 1970’s and 80’s and as I said above, just as fresh today as it was in 1979 (You recently  heard the opening guitar riff from Nature’s Not In It in a Xbox Kinect commercial).  I’ve carried this album with me since 1981 and listen to it often whenever I need an uplift and want to listen to something that you don’t hear much anywhere else. For that reason, Entertainment! is a classic that deserves your attention.

EDIT:  BTW, when listening to this album, turn it up to 11!

3 thoughts on “Classic Album Review: Gang of Four — Entertainment! (1979)”

  1. To this day, their '82 show at First Ave is one of the best concerts I've ever witnessed. They closed with a stunning version of "Anthrax", BTW.

    Great album. Great band.

  2. I remember hearing about that show in 82 and was upset I missed it. I saw them in 88 or 89 and while it was good, I don't think quite as good as that earlier show.

    This is a very cool video of Damaged Goods from 1980.


  3. Oh one other thing I should have mentioned. The production values of this album are just excellent. A lot of albums from this time period suffered from poor production, mainly a sludgy sound. Not so with Entertainment! Excellent production, each instrument and vocals can be heard clearly. A perfect album to play loud.

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