Gang of Four 

Return the Gift

Franz Ferdinand fans mystified by the loud contempt Gang of Four devotees still harbor should proceed directly to Return the Gift. The album, a rerecording of Go4's most identifiable early tunes, finds the antisentimental Brits outplaying not only the current bands who've borrowed their sound, but also themselves. Compared to the circa-1980 originals, these versions are harder, tighter, and more fun, from the squall of "Anthrax" to the slick "I Love a Man in a Uniform." Musical aptitude, however, does have its drawbacks, especially when it comes to a band known for inspired experimentation. Whereas Andy Gill's guitar was once a wild and woolly thing even by punk standards, its tone is now tamer, its stabbing angles more precise. And while the P-Funk the band always claimed as an influence shows through these ragged grooves like never before, it also makes an info-overload anthem like "At Home He's a Tourist" more evocative of the dancefloor than the factory, easing the stomach-churning inertia that made the original so weird. Nevertheless, everything missing from the Gang's various imitators is intact here -- originality and actual content, for example.

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