Why didn't Gang of Four become pop stars? Four and a half decades after the UK band began, the answer might seem obvious. From the start, their work was innovative and challenging, with politically aware lyrics that drew on academic theory and music that moved at razor-sharp angles. One reason why their early singles and first two albums--collected on this new 77-81 box set alongside a live 2xLP and a cassette of demos--still sound so vital is that the band never pandered to the mainstream or dumbed its songs down.
Back in the aughts, when a flurry of bands made it known that they considered Gang of Four a primary influence, what was interesting was how little of them actually sounded like that band. Sure, they might have copped the angular rhythms, the sharp guitars, the growling bass, the crisscrossing ….