Listen to this song by post-punk architects, and cool-to-namecheck-in-an-interview pin-ups Gang of Four with their 1979 song “Damaged Goods”, a single from their masterpiece Entertainment. This album has sent ripples of influence out over the decades to bands as disparate as Fugazi, to Rage Against the Machine, to Interpol, to The Futureheads. As such, it’s one of those rarities in pop music history – both of its time, and timeless.
This tune is a high point of a very high artistic pinnacle as it is, with the choppy guitar matched only with the clipped lead vocal that make it sound almost like funk from some other dimension. The song, much like the rest of the album, seems to rely on texture as much as it does on hooks.
During a time where pop music was in a period of transition, this one stands out as being in a class by itself, stylistically speaking. By 1979, lines had been drawn between what had come before and what was upcoming in rock music. Being a fan of rock music wasn’t as simple as it had been, now that several streams of it had been established. But, where does this sit exactly?
The labels of post-punk and new wave, like most musical labels, are hard to pin down. Yet, to me there are a few characteristics which earmark them. One is a particular kind of contrast, which runs like a thread through the best of it.
This particular tune, for instance, is like the danciest song that you would ever hesitate to dance to, given the rueful lyrics that outline its anti-love song sentiments. Yet, the music seems to invite your movement as much as its lyrics demand your cynicism. It’s sexy, yet anti-sex. It’s pop, yet it seems to revile all of the sentiments of traditional pop music. As such, you’ve got a song, and a record, that is highly subversive in nearly every sense. The band would continue on this trajectory, and remains to be an active concern today.
For more information about Gang of Four, check out the Gang of Four Facebook page.