Live Review: Gang Of Four, Horace Bones

18 November 2019 | 12:02 pm | Guido Farnell

"[T]his incarnation of the band play hard and tight."

More Gang Of Four More Gang Of Four

Before we get to the main event, Melbourne’s Horace Bones warm the crowd with a rather visceral assault on the senses. Their formidable presence fills the room with thunderous, thrashing punk. All eyes are on frontman Oisin Kelly, who starts the set looking like an enraged office worker, perhaps restructured out of a job, and ends it shirtless and shrieking like a banshee on top of a speaker stack. Horace Bones burn a testosterone-fuelled explosion of existential rage, in shades of alienation and disillusion, with nods to The Birthday Party and The Drones added for good measure. Throughout the set there are somewhat nostalgic references to good old-fashioned '80s pub-rock, but the overall vibe is in-your-face grit and distortion. Fierce as all hell, Horace Bones are a force to be reckoned with.

It's been 40 years since Gang Of Four released their seminal album Entertainment!. The band has seen numerous line-up changes over the past four decades, with original members Jon King, Hugo Burnham and Dave Allen leaving and re-joining the band. Tonight's celebration of Entertainment! is very much guitarist Andy Gill’s party, and feels like Gang Of One with three young friends. While some punters argue the evening feels like watching a tribute band, Gill, much like Peter Hook, has created a slightly distorted facsimile of what we could have experienced back in the late '70s. 

Nonetheless, this incarnation of the band play hard and tight. Thomas McNeice and Tobias Humble, on bass and drums respectively, grind out muscular funk grooves with the spiky angularity of Gill’s punk guitar licks. “James Brown told me in the '80s that I’m too funky,” laughs Gill at one point. Vocalist John Sterry does a commendable job channelling his inner Jon King but doesn’t seem to completely own these sounds, or deliver them with the kind of conviction that Horace Bones’ Oisin Kelly can manage. 

Love Like Anthrax gets the show started with wailing feedback from the ritual destruction of an electric guitar. There is still so much to love about Entertainment! and iconic tracks like Damaged Goods and At Home He’s A Tourist elicit a huge roar of approval from the crowd. Even Not Great Men still caries a potent political message. After dealing Entertainment! in a different track order to the album, Gang Of Four unleash hard rocking versions of I Love A Man In A Uniform and Isle Of Dogs. A mic’d up microwave provides a dub-heavy beat on He’d Send In The Army as Sterry smashes it with a solid piece of wood in time to the music. To Hell With Poverty is classic Gang Of Four and brings down the night brilliantly. Despite their politics, these days it seems that everyone is a capitalist. The smashed guitar and microwave could have been yours from the merch stall for just $200 each. Cash only.