Take stripped-down punk, add some funky grooves, and top it off with some leftist proselytizing and you have GOF's, "Entertainment!". GOF took the urgent minimalism of Wire's first album ("Pink Flag", 1979) added tight, funky grooves (the guitars sometimes sounded like machine guns, the drums like artillery). This created the perfect environment for GOF's trenchant, oft funny songs describing the dehumanization of modern life. "Entertainment!" could have easily digressed into tedious rhetoric, but for all their ideals GOF swing and have fun; GOF recognize the irony of being part of the commercial system they're criticizing (if you haven't guessed, the album title is ironic). GOF let you know right off that they're out to expose the myths promoted by commericalism. On the opener, 'Ether', vocalist Jon King knows there's no "happy ever after at the end of the rainbow", and endeavors to expose the "dirt behind the daydream". The choppy guitars and bomb-like drums let you know their inflammatory intentions. On 'Natural's Not in It', they pose the problem, "The problem of leisure, what to do for pleasure", then recognize the quandry of relationships; "Your relations are all power, we all have good intentions, but all with strings attached". On the bleakly comical 'Damaged Goods', King likens a relational break-up to receiving faulty merchandise, and berates his ex with lines like, "Open the till, give me the change you said would do me good, refund the cost, you said you're cheap, but you're too much". 'I Found That Essence Rare' has giddy, sing-along chorus to go along with a spiteful comments about relationships ("See the happy pair smiling close like they're monkeys, They wouldn't think so, but they're holding themselves down"). On the genuinely despairing, '5:45', King watches a military conflict on TV and laments how it becomes morosely enjoyable ("Watch new blood on the 18 inch screen, The corpse is a new personality... Guerilla war struggle is the new entertainment!"). Against post-psychadelic noise, on the closer "Anthrax" King equates love to being "like a beetle on it's back", while guitarist Andrew Gill speaks cynically (like Moe Tucker and Lou Reed) of how most groups use love to sell records. "Entertainent!" was a profound influence (musically and ideologically) on artists such as REM, Rage Against the Machine, Fugazi, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. But, what makes a historic album is it's prescience: In 1979 GOF exposed the myths commercial culture was just starting to sell and also recognized that everything was becoming entertainment. Now, "Entertainment!" might seem less prescient and more like reportage, but that's a testment the record's brilliance. GOF's vision of a dystopia where everything (even war) is treated as entertainment has sadly become reality. If the record doesn't seem trenchant anymore it's because we've been engulfed by the world it describes. "Entertainment" might be the most cynical album ever made. And it's also one of the best (and most entertaining).
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