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Gang of Four | Happy Now

The post-punk vets venture further into the synth-driven murk on their latest disc.

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Happy has never been Gang of Four’s default setting. Or even an option most of the time. And lately, it would seem to be an even-less-likely scenario. The political post-punk stalwarts led by guitarist (and sole original member) Andy Gill have been going through something of a rough patch recently — a slate of tour dates were axed after Gill came down with respiratory issues, and crowdfunding site Pledge Music’s implosion supposedly spannered the works surrounding this album’s release. Coincidentally enough, a similar sense of frustration might also be in the cards for longtime fans hoping that their 10th disc Happy Now would see GoF return to the propulsive angst and spiky angles that fuelled revered early albums like Entertainment! and Solid Gold. Instead, Gill and his latest bandmates — including singer John (Gaoler) Sterry — venture even deeper into the keyboard-driven soundscapes, wobbly electronics and mid-tempo murk that crept into 2015’s divisive What Happens Next. Of the 10 tracks on the 40-minute set, only Lucky rises above a slow boil. And it’s the freaking bonus cut. Admittedly, the disc’s vibrant sonic palette and expansive production add some interesting touches to the proceedings. And tunes like Ivanka: My Name’s On It let you know they haven’t lost their topical edge. Still, a few guitar-rockers amid all the samey-sounding electro-funk low-riders might have gone done a lot to keep the faithful happy — at least for now.