I was in Florida as the pandemic erupted and the markets tanked, so as things began to shut down and I began to socially isolate myself, I found myself spending a lot of time outside walking by myself with my headphones on, looking at birds, and avoiding humans. My playlist for that trip had Gang of Four’s first three albums (Entertainment!, Solid Gold, and Songs of the Free) on it. They were a favorite band of mine in the ’80s, and their founding guitarist-vocalist-conceptualist Andy Gill had just passed away before we headed Southward, so that was an act of homage, on some plane. As I ambled and listened over the course of a few days, those three records somehow seemed to begin perfectly capturing the way that things are feeling right now, with smart songs about economics, societies, politics, communications — and their inevitable breakdowns.
I suspect that after we come through all of this (whenever that happens), any time that I hear Gang of Four, my mind will be carried back to the Time of the Coronavirus Correction. That’s how it has been for me with System of a Down’s Toxicity album, a chillingly resonant score for the horrors and aftermath of September 11, which happened just as I was spinning that great record constantly as a fresh new release. I can’t hear Toxicity anymore without thinking about that time, which means I don’t listen to it very often. We’ll see if that happens with the songs of this crisis era, most especially (for me) Gang of Four. It probably will.
I include one of Gang of Four’s more prophetic songs in this installment of “Five Songs You Need to Hear,” along with four others that have jumped out at me in recent days for their lyrical or emotional resonance with these trying times. As always, the concept underlying “Five Songs You Need to Hear” is that they’re favorites of mine, many of you have not likely heard them, and so we should rectify that situation, stat. Musically, none of them have anything in common, though this month they do have some thematic commonality, even though that’s not normally the case. If you like the concept, you can click here for all of the earlier installments.
Here’s hoping everyone reading and listening here is safe and supported. Be good to each other, spin good tunes, watch great movies, plug in with your remote networks as often as you can, unplug from the nattering news machine even more often than that, and wash those hands, you filthy animals, you!
#1. Funkadelic, “Biological Speculation”
#2. Lou Reed, “There Is No Time
#3. Melt Banana, “Infection Defective”
#4. Gang of Four, “We Live As We Dream, Alone”
#5. Snog, “Cheerful Hypocrisy”