“It would take a brave band to try and tackle any Gang Of Four songs.”
Thus spake God Is In The TV’s ace live photographer Paul Reno in conversation with me only a few months ago. And lo and behold, just a short while after this, a whole gamut of GO4 frontman Andy Gill‘s favourite artists have come together to create a double album full of covers from the band’s output, in tribute to Gill, who was taken far too quickly from the world in 2020 aged 64.
Speaking of ‘brave’ bands, there aren’t many who fit the bill so perfectly as Bristol’s IDLES. The in-your-face anti-heroes are very much a Marmite band, having provoked strong reactions from all corners. Even here at GIITTV, while many of us love them, there are at least a couple of writers who, despite being mild-mannered in general, will turn into gibbering, foaming at the mouth whirlwinds of rage at the mere mention of their name. Who better then, to kick off this tribute LP with their angsty, explosive but faithful version of undoubtedly Gang Of Four’s best-known song, ‘Damaged Goods‘?
Tom Morello & Serj Tankian are up next with their take on ‘Natural’s Not In It‘. Morello is virtually unrecognisable from his Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave days (likewise Tankian and System Of A Down) and bizarrely the thing ends up sounding, rather wonderfully, like Devo. Other highlights of disc one (of which there are many) include Hotei‘s scintillating interpretation of ‘To Hell With Poverty‘ which fizzes along like Pigbag have joined forces with New Young Pony Club, as overseen by Orbital, and the ever-dependable Gary Numan, whose version of ‘Love Like Anthrax‘, along with collaborator Ade Fenton, seems like it could have been produced by David Holmes in one of his bleakest moods.
There isn’t a single take on disc one that isn’t great. Indeed, it’s tough to single out a highlight, but arguably the double whammy of Herbert Grònemeyer‘s eighties synth-laden ‘I Love A Man In Uniform‘ (featuring Alex Silva) and the always fantastic Lonelady‘s ‘Not Great Men‘, which spits with intensity, is the album’s absolute pinnacle.
Disc two is a separate string of onions altogether, beginning with La Roux‘s smooth version of ‘Damaged Goods‘, summer vibes dripping so vibrantly from it that the context of the original number is blurred beyond recognition. You’ll never hear Everything Everything sounding quite so gnarly either, on another version of ‘Natural’s Not In It‘.
The Dandy Warhols‘ take on ‘What We All Want‘ brilliantly recalls both The Fall and Beck, Warpaint give ‘Paralysed‘ a Nico meets Patti Smith-style makeover and in The Sounds‘ hands, ‘I Love A Man In Uniform‘ becomes something akin to Hot Gossip‘s ‘I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper‘!
Elsewhere, Flea and John Frusciante employ a children’s choir on ‘Not Great Men‘ and Hardcore Raver In Tears turns ‘Last Mile‘ into an ’80s style AOR number, which works far better than you might expect.
Overall, I would say that disc one is the stronger of the two, but both of them are worthy of repeat spins in the car if you’re going any considerable distance. It’s a wonderful celebration of Gill’s life and his band’s material, and all the artists involved should feel very proud of themselves for making it such an almighty success.
The Problem Of Leisure is out now on Gill Music Ltd.