Gang of Four - What Happens Next (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Gang of Four

What Happens Next (2015)


With the release of their latest album, What Happens Next, Gang of Four find them reduced to one original member in guitarist Andy Gill. Jon King left the band after the release of the 2011's Content. The addition of new vocalist, John Sterry, brings not only a dramatic shift in vocal styling but also a dramatic shift in the sound overall sound of the band. Whereas Jon King’s vocal delivery was a rhythmic bark, John Sterry’s delivery is far more traditional bringing to mind James Dean Bradfield on the Manic Street Preachers’ more aggressive tracks.

Tthis shift in vocal delivery and the aforementioned mentioned change in musical style leave the band almost unrecognizable. While many bands have been able to recover from major personnel changes, in this instance the change in sound is so dramatic that one is left wondering what compelled Andy Gill to stick with the Gang of Four moniker. While the band’s rhythm section doesn’t deviate from the abrasive take on funk and disco music the guitar playing is where the real change takes place. Where once the Andy Gill’s guitar played into the funk and disco sound the band became known for, it takes on an almost industrial wall of sound this time out.

Any one of these changes by themselves would have lead to an innovative new sound for a band that’s been making music for nearly forty years. Together they create a sound that feels more like one of the bands they influenced, The Faint comes to mind. Yes, the political agenda is still present and at the forefront of the sound. These same lyrics from Jon King would have created a sense of aggression and a sense of revolution, however behind the more traditionally sung vocals of Sterry the songs become more contemplative and world weary.

The real evidence this release would have worked better had Andy Gil chosen to record under another name, comes in the form of the tracks featuring guest vocalists. Alison Mosshart, best known for her work with The Dead Weather, The Kills, and Discount takes over lead vocals on the tracks “Broken Talk” and “England’s In My Bones.” These songs work better than any others on the album. While John Sterry’s voice is great, it lacks the character of Alison Mosshart’s cigarette smoke tinged voice. That character gives the songs heart they wouldn’t otherwise have. Elsewhere, Herbert Grönemeyer’s deeper vocals give the song “The Dying Rays” a feel closer to that of Echo and The Bunnymen than anything in the Gang of Four catalog. Robbie Furze, of The Big Pink, pushes the comparisons to the bands that cite Gang of Four as an influnce to the forefront on “Graven Image.”

Truth be told, this isn’t a bad album. It shows Andy Gill is able to play variations on the traditional Gang of Four sound as well as near total deviations. That being said, it doesn’t sound like a Gang of Four album. Between John Sterry taking over for Jon King, and the presence of guest lead vocalists on nearly half of the songs on this album, as good as this project is … you just don’t get the feeling you’re listening to Gang of Four. Perhaps that was the point, and as Jon King once sang on Gang of Four’s debut, “repackaged sex keeps your interest.” And for all of the fault I find in still calling the band Gang of Four, this album manages to do just that.