Gang of Four – What Happens Next

Gang of Four have been returning in fits and starts since the early ’90s – a brief 2011 live iteration even managed to reunite the full original quartet. But the legacy ranks have quickly been trimmed to guitarist Andy Gill, and the announcement of an album under the Go4 banner without vocalist Jon King seemed a crime against nature. It’s beyond ironic that one of the movement’s most unabashedly leftist bands has now spawned two advertising professionals and an A&R man.

Despite this backdrop I’m unable to despise and dismiss What Happens Next nearly as much as I hoped. New vocalist John Sterry does an unnervingly convincing job of replicating King’s delivery – ignore the credits and one might believe this was Jon’s voice another decade on. Gill wisely invests his energy in recreating the more austere Solid Gold-era grooves, except for the two tracks sung by the Kills’ Alison Mosshart (an impressive coup, and a nice change of pace) which ape the upbeat vibe of “I Love a Man in a Uniform.” Far less welcome is Herbert Gronemeyer’s guest spot, which sounds like a Peter Gabriel outtake from So.

Actually, What Happens Next’s greatest accomplishment is not sucking – Gill runs out of decent musical ideas by the halfway point, and even the highlights are mere knockoffs of past successes. (How many times can he go back to the “What We All Want” well?) A friend suggested that the mark of a great artist is the ability to control their audience’s emotions. By that standard Gill earns high marks – even if it feels manipulative.

Gang of Four
What Happens Next