The members of Gang of Four would likely be the first to tell you that you do not need an extravagant Gang of Four box set. They’re the ones who released a 45 sarcastically titled “To Hell With Poverty” and backed it up with “Capital (It Fails Us Now),” a lampoon about a newborn baby reaching for its credit card. They skewered advertising culture on “I Found That Essence Rare” and quipped, “The problem of leisure, what to do for pleasure, ideal love a new purchase” on “Natural’s Not in It.” But for all the Marxist, anti-capitalist ideology of their lyrics, they also likely know that there’s a difference between needs and wants. And it’s perfectly valid to want 77-81, the box set that compiles the one-two punch of their first LPs, 1979’s Entertainment! and 1981’s Solid Gold, along with singles, live recordings, demos, and memorabilia.
The collection presents a concentrated look at the genesis of one of England’s most vital post-punk bands. Although they’re best remembered for the acerbic sociopolitical commentary and aggressive disco musical sensibility of Entertainment! — the album where they improbably combined all the good times of Chic and all the no-fun of punk — the collection shows how, like any great band, they were a product of their environment.
Its 100-page book explains how they met at art school in dreary Leeds and…
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