Coming from a band that was named after a PiL song and took its album title from a Gang of Four song, Stealing of a Nation
is a surprisingly pop-oriented disc. You can hear the post-punk bass-driven throb here, but there's also something slick and MTV ready -- a hint of Duran Duran's manicured howl in tracks like "Transmission" and "Shake the Foundation". Gotham!
had a magical scratchy energy, a manic three-dimensional groove, but that has been smoothed over and smothered by strobe-lit, squeaky-clean production. Whereas tracks like "Save Our City" and "Red Lights" pounded the listener from every direction, "Party Crashers" throbs from a detached remove. It's the same sound -- maybe -- but less in-your-face and confrontational, sort of like viewing a really good party on television. The politics, too, have been watered down, at a time when every other band in America has become more strident. Yes, there are topically relevant tracks like "State of Alert" and quasi-title track "Nation", but this time out, Radio 4 have reserved a good bit of their righteous anger for things like radio monopolies ("Death of American Radio") and social climbing ("Party Crashers").
If you'd never heard Gotham!, you might very well find much to like about Stealing of a Nation. It has the same ass-moving thump, the same hallucinatory percussion grooves, the same barbed-wire tangle of staccato guitars. There are some good songs, too -- the late-Clash-like "State of Alert" and the disco-flashy "Give Me All Your Money" come to mind. But Gotham!'s lo-fi production started a fire under its tunes; Stealing a Nation opts for distant, icy perfection. If you loved Gotham!, as I did, Stealing of a Nation will be a disappointment.