Gang of Four

What Happens Next

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More than one wag has referred to 2015's What Happens Next as the work of "Gang of One," since guitarist Andy Gill is the only member of the original Gang of Four lineup who was still on board for these sessions, following the departure of vocalist Jon King in the wake of 2010's Content. Much of What Happens Next sounds like a careful effort to balance the thick but limber "neo-Marxist funk" of the band's first era with a more streamlined and contemporary electronic attack, and the result sounds a good bit less like Gang of Four than a 21st century solo set from Andy Gill, especially given the presence of several guest vocalists (including Alison Mosshart, Herbert Grönemeyer, and Robbie Furze) and a production that's less funky and muscular than the group's best and best-known work. There's still a tough, dance-friendly core to these songs, and Gill's guitar work remains thoughtful, incisive, and challenging, but this feels less like a band's work than an project created by Gill and some sidemen whose job is to play well and stay out of his way (and they do both skillfully). Adding to this is the album's lyrical tone; What Happens Next deals more with the the inner crises of the individual in the digital age than the witty but pithy assessments of how politics and economics impact us on the large and small scales. The wordplay here is intelligent and observant, but also severe and joyless; there's little if any wit and a lot of free-floating anxiety in these ten songs, and nothing here is ultimately as memorable or compelling as anything from GoF's first three albums. If it is unfair on some level to compare What Happens Next to the work Gang of Four released between 1979 and 1982, in a real way that's a consequence of Gill insisting on billing this band as Gang of Four; instead of standing on its own, it's part of the legacy of a band whose history has become increasingly muddled, and while there's much here Gill can point to with pride, more than a few fans are likely to feel they didn't get what was advertised.

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