‘Happy Now’ is the latest studio release from legendary post-punk band Gang of Four. Their debut album ‘Entertainment’ was one of the seminal albums of the 70s and also credited with pioneering the idea of a “political album” outside of the standard punk space. Namedropped by the likes of Anthony Kiedis and Kurt Cobain over the years, their effect on alternative music cannot be understated.
Throughout their career, the band have always had their finger on the pulse of society’s shortcomings and ‘Happy Now’ is no different. The record aims to answer the age-old question of whether humans are happy with recent social and political decisions. The piercing lyrics and stuttering punk/funk/electronic sound is a throwback to their earlier work whilst still sounding as fresh as anything else around today.
The album bursts into life with ‘Toreador’ an angular guitar driven track with ethereal vocals and some massive dub wobbles, it’s an interesting mix. The synth intro to ‘One True Friend’ introduces an almost industrial feel to the record, another angle that Gang of Four pull off with ease. The lyrics deal with the juxtaposition of political figures as both heroes and villains, which is as thought provoking as it is accurate.
The most obvious nod to the state of current affairs comes from early single ‘Ivanka’ – think Depeche Mode but with Rage Against the Machine level politically aware vocals. ‘Don’t Ask Me’ sees Andy Gill’s frenetic guitar rise to the fore, which layers really nicely with the repetitive drum machine providing the perfect platform for John Sterry’s haunting vocal.
‘White Lies’ is an obvious highlight, a catchy, dual vocal chorus married with some atmospheric dub tones, it’s a fantastic breather after the urgency of the last few tracks. The swirling synth arpeggios bring a slight Bowie feel to proceedings, a surprising but welcome addition.
With ‘Happy Now’ Gang of Four have shown they still have their fingers on the pulse after 40 years. Their take on the current climate coupled with the unique instrumentation that only these veterans could pull off makes for a very enjoyable listen.