33 1/3: Gang Of Four – Entertainment! by Kevin J. H. Dettmar (Bloomsbury)


Entertainment! is an album tailor-made for a 33 1/3 dissection. Not only did Gang of Four’s debut take the excitement of punk rock and contort it into new shapes through funk and reggae, but it’s also dense with lyrical commentary on subjects ranging from consumerism to alienation and sexism. Yet somehow, Kevin J.H. Dettmar’s book falls flat. The problem is that Dettmar concentrates so heavily on the lyrical commentary, and tackles it in such an academic way, that reading it feels like classwork and not a pleasure. Sample sentence:

“Whereas one of the signal accomplishments of cultural studies has been the destruction of the convenient binary opposition between “consumer” and “producer”: consumption is not an entirely passive process, we now realize, but an activity involving real choices and creativity.”

So, are we having fun yet? I wouldn’t mind the scholarly tone if the book provided new insights into the album, but reading it didn’t enhance my understanding or appreciation for Entertainment!. Without that, there isn’t much about it to recommend.

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