Gang of Four are dead, long live Gang of Four! Well, not exactly. But it seems a handful of bands in Brooklyn, N.Y. (Les Savy Fav, the Ex-Models, et al.), all of whom possess a fanatical love of the English quartet and their danceable, politicized, angular brand of punk rock, are attempting to keep the band's spirit alive by pilfering and altering elements of their sound. They achieve varying degrees of success.
Radio 4's second full length, Gotham!, is one of the best, if not the best, of the Brooklyn-based, Gang of Four-worshipping lot. With the help of DFA producers Tim Goldsworthy and James Murphy (UNKLE, Trans AM, The Rapture) the five-piece band ably draws from the raw, anthemic energy of The Ramones and The Clash, the layered rock intellect of Primal Scream, and, of course, the noisy funkiness of Gang of Four.
On the album opener, "Our Town," Anthony Roman's fuzzy bass line booms against keyboardist Gerard Garone's harpsichord-like arpeggios and grating samples. Tommy Williams and Roman lyrically reflect, in shout-sing, on then-Mayor Guiliani's cleanup (or gentrification) of New York City: "You want to go and change the face/ Turn into a different place/ As if it was some disgrace..." Steeped in localized, personal experiences, the band's lyrics ably convey revolutionary principles without making them sound ripped out of a high-school social-studies textbook.
While politicized reflections on New York City fill much of Gotham!, so does dancing. The album-closing track, a three-minute burst of sonic energy entitled "New Disco," is crammed with Garon's crescendoing, siren-like samples and the driving percussion rhythms of Greg Collins and P.J. O'Connor. The chorus, the simple mantra of "New Disco," proclaims both the potency of the reemerging genre of underground dance rock and the hedonistic allure of the dance-club locale: "It sounds so good/ It looks so good/ It feels so good/ It's all so good!"
Throughout the LP, Radio 4's musings effortlessly move between police abuse and cheating girlfriends. While purists namely the kind who think too much and dance too little might dismiss the album as derivative, if Gotham! proves anything, it's that if "it sounds so good," how bad can it be?