Gang Of Four’s decision to mark their first full reunion in 20 years with an album of past triumphs re-done exactly the way they were done originally smacks of a stunt, like Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of “Psycho.” But as the band has said, they never felt the original recorded versions conveyed the power of their live shows.
So while the shock of the new is missing from post-punk classics such as “Not Great Men,” “Damaged Goods” and “Anthrax,” the performances themselves are meatier and funkier. And if you miss the female chorus on “I Love a Man in a Uniform,” you will probably get a charge out of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ remix on the second disc, where Karen O gets her rocks off.
A bunch of other admirers, including the Dandy Warhols, Faultline and No Doubt’s Tony Kanal, try their hand at reconfiguring the new versions, and for once, the rock crowd beats the techno gang. The Rakes’ “repackaging” of “Natural’s Not In It” is pure Top-40 candy while Ladytron’s “remodeling” of the same song is artsy dance-floor tapioca. And current working-class heroes The Others are given two chances to re-imagine “At Home He’s a Tourist,” one of which is actually the original version that appeared on “Entertainment” but stripped of all production accouterments. Maybe it’s the control sample.