I know this sounds like absurd hyperbole, but I tell you: this album is an altar that a wide swath of rock music has been genuflecting to and stealing from since its release. There’s nothing before “Entertainment!” that sounds even vaguely like it and a thousand bands afterwards that have tried really hard to do exactly that.
The White Stripes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bloc Party, The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, Billy Talent, Rage Against The Machine, Cop Shoot Cop, dozens or hundreds of others: this is where their sound comes from, the trunk of that tree. Your first reaction might be that you’ve heard all of this before, but that’s rougly like complaining that Casablanca would be a good movie if it wasn’t for all the cliches.
Keep listening. Your gateway drugs to this album are “Natural’s Not In It” and “I Found That Essence Rare”; and I’d follow them up with “At Home He’s A Tourist” if I wanted to ease my way into it, and then go back to track one and leave it on repeat.
The albums you really want, in order, are “Entertainment!” and, though there’s quite a bit of overlap, the “A Brief History Of The 20th Century” compilation. Possibly (though later, please!) also their recent “Return The Gift” two-CD set. If you haven’t heard the originals a lot of that last one won’t mean much to you, for reasons discussed in this article, but it’s very much worth owning either way.
There’s some live-performance love here, Gang Of Four playing “Anthrax” at SXSW 2006. Truly, I say again, it is a fantastic album. So much so that it’s difficult to believe that so few people I know have ever heard of it, and that this album is almost thirty years old.