In the late Seventies, when punk and disco were still new and subversive, Gang of Four smartly fused the two for a hard-hitting yet danceable sound, which the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Interpol gleefully mined for gold records in the Aughts. But Gang of Four’s members never stopped experimenting and continued the band in fits and starts ever since. The one constant through line back to their landmark 1979 album, Entertainment!, were the rough-hewn riffs of founding guitarist Andy Gill, who died in February, likely an early coronavirus casualty.
Prior to his death, the group — by then a Gang of Three — had recorded a handful of old and new tunes, collected on Anti Hero, which shows their resolve to Gill’s vision. “Glass” is a sharp reworking of the Entertainment! track, but it sounds a little too polished compared to the original. “Change the Locks,” however, improves upon the loose version that appeared on 2019’s Happy Now with tighter, guitar-forward production. The two new songs are both dancey and electro-infused, but Gill co-wrote only “Forever Starts Now,” which juxtaposes jagged rhythms with smooth melodies, and the sorts of scratchy, elastic six-string lines are sorely missing on the poppy, modern R&B-inflected “Day Turns to Night,” which singer John Sterry wrote in the days after Gill’s death as a tribute. “I won’t cry, no, I won’t shed a tear,” he sings to Gill, “I’ll never forget all the years that you brought me along for the ride.” It’s a sweet sentiment, but it highlights Gill’s importance if only for showing how badly it needs the punk grit he would add to his bandmates’ dance-floor sensibilities.