In February of this year, the world lost Andy Gill, the guitarist and last original member of Gang of Four, a British post-punk band he co-founded in 1976 with Jon King. The four-song posthumously released EP, Anti Hero, pays tribute to the legacy of Gill with two new Gang of Four songs and two reworkings: “Glass”, from the band’s 1979 debut, Entertainment!, and “Change the Locks” from their 2019 studio album, Happy Now.
Anti Hero opens with “Forever Starts Now”, one of the last songs Gill had worked on with John Sterry, the band’s frontman since 2012. The track charges in with clipped notes, an ominous, fat-sounding bassline, and Gill’s jagged guitar dropping in, nicely adding color to, and brightening, the song’s overall tone. Whether intended during Sterry’s lyric writing process or not, the EP’s second song, “Day Turns to Night”, ends up being a touching tribute that includes a chorus that has John singing, “so long, goodbye, I’ll see you when the day turns into night.”
“Change the Locks”, the first of Anti Hero’s two reworkings, shaves a half-minute off the original and sounds fuller and more dynamic production-wise. Of any of the songs to pull from the lackluster Happy Now, “Change the Locks” is a wise pick, as Gill’s signature sound is well displayed throughout, and this version does a decent job showcasing its impact. Anti Hero is completed with “Glass”, a smoothed-out version of the same song from their debut. This one, however, unfortunately loses the wonderfully herky-jerky feel of the original, though the point of spotlighting Gill’s guitar work is clearly what the Gang were going for.
With a beautiful cover created by Shepard Fairey, a title honoring Gill, and all the profits from the record going to Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, the London hospital that treated Gill in his final days, Anti Hero is a beautiful and thoughtfully packaged tribute. While not perfect, the EP does a good job of highlighting Andy Gill’s important and influential stylistic contributions to the post-punk genre over the last forty-plus years.