Gang of Four has a history of acting as an outlet for western political anxiety. Entertainment!, the group’s 1979 full-length debut, was funky and neurotic. With lyrics that unite teenage angst and cold war paranoia, the album serves as a dynamic reference point for the emotional climate at the outset of the new decade.
Since Entertainment!, Gang of Four has made a series of attempts to capture this same political exasperation and disenchantment, most falling into the trap of forced metaphors and uninspired imagery. Complicit breaks new ground on this front. Most of the lyrics sound like the musings of a pre-teen reciting watery conversation overheard at a dinner party. The song “Ivanka (Things You Can’t Have)” is startlingly lazy–– a haphazard collage of Ivanka Trump quotes, accompanied by bland, unoriginal, quasi-ironic commentary. Stunning. Nevertheless, I do give them credit for this little line:
“In the morning daddy wants me in his room, it’s where we get together/ It’s not true that daddy calls my name in stormy weather”
I mean, come on, that’s pretty funny.
Sonically, the album is overproduced and underwhelming, a tragic mix for a band that was once at the forefront of creative songwriting in a genre––post-punk––acclaimed for its ambitious genre blending. The EDM remix of the EP’s lead single, “Lucky by 10 O’Clock Chemical,” further disorients the band’s intentions for the project. Other tracks are overlaid with an out-of-place sub-bass, typical of dubstep, which comes off as a lame and outdated attempt to appeal to a younger audience. Many of the songs settle in as a sad imitation of mistakes that the Black Keys made in their later work: too much glam and too little content. The chorus on “Lucky” falls remarkably flat, lacking a strong melody to support what could otherwise be a solid, catchy line.
All this being said, I find this EP charming. The songwriting and dynamic arrangements come to the surface on certain tracks, especially “Lucky” –– its glitchy verse and sharp guitar melding into the groovy bass line was the type of songwriting that I’ve come to love from Gang of Four. If you were to take a scalpel to the poorly-produced cacophony of sound, you would find some of the same qualities that make albums like Entertainment! so entertaining in the first place: a fun political statement with interesting movements throughout. All in all, the album is a letdown and the old school elitist will almost certainly pass it off as a disappointment, but that doesn’t mean the average listener won’t find something in it to enjoy.