Gang of Four- Half Past Two - Venus Furs

Gang of Four - Anti Hero
2020 has been a sad year for Gang of Four as early in the year guitarist Andy Gill passed away, his death thought to be COVID-19 related. The band carries on here as Gill would have wanted with this four-song E.P. that includes "Forever Starts Now," a new song written by Gill and singer John Sterry. The way Sterry sings the song, coupled with its herky-jerky rhythm and well-placed synth blips recalls Devo, and Thomas Dolby to a lesser extent. The cut is about a woman questioning her man's commitment to "forever" in their relationship. Ironically the effort's follow-up tune, "Day Turns to Night," begins with the words "nothing is ever meant to last forever." Set to a luxurious mid-tempo beat and with a lush synth bed, "Day Turns to Night" is suitable for snuggling or a slow dance, while the punk-tinged "Glass" is an irresistible new wave dance number. Great to hear this long-running band fully on track here.

Half Past Two - Something Blue
This big nine-piece Orange County-based ska band adds to their significant catalog with this three-song E.P. Sax player Din Fernandes gets things started with a funky intro to opening song "Lyin' Eyes," a cut set to a typically joyous ska bounce even though lead singer Tara Hahn is singing about being let down by a former lover. "See You Again" is rocking ska in the style of No Doubt and "I Will" recalls the era of the great 2-Tone bands like the Specials and the English Beat. Barely eight minutes of music here but these three songs are made to stand up to repeat play.

Venus Furs - Venus Furs
Venus Furs is the stage name of Paul Kasner, a Montreal-based singer and multi-instrumentalist with a penchant for sublime psychedelia. "Chaos and Confusion" features electric guitar in a "Neil Young wandering the desert on peyote" way while "Friendly Fire" hints at R.E.M. after they've munched some of those curious Georgia mushrooms. "Guards in the Garden" begins in a folky, bucolic manner consistent with its title but it gets to rocking fairly quickly; this one nods to '60s psychedelia. Perhaps the trippiest cut here is "Fire in Her Eyes," a meandering, seven-minute journey with an ever-present staccato beat setting the pace. Fans of psych rock with a bent toward folk will absolutely love this record.

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