Like the retro-leaning indie acts Satisfact and My Favorite, Radio 4 dig way back to the late-’70s/early-’80s underground, when the lines between "punk" and "new wave" were blurred at best and political messages often formed the backbone of music you could slam or dance to. Between the up-front drum beats and the candied backward guitar loops of "Start a Fire," bassist/singer Anthony Roman is surprisingly understated about the message in the music. "Who’d have thought disease could be passé/It’s looking like it turned out that way/Someone needs to start a fire here," he sings, in what might be an allusion to any number of hot-button issues.
Both in form and in function, Gotham! makes no bones about its debt to the first few Gang of Four albums. But the disc’s stylistic breadth is more in keeping with Sandinista! than with Entertainment!, especially when you consider the Joe Strummer–esque vocal strainings and dub shadings of "Eyes Wide Open" and the straightforward "Lost in the Supermarket" pop of "The Movies." At times the powerful mix of dancy beats and angular funk guitars is all but undone by comically political lyrics like "I’m really sorry but we’ve got to start resisting/It’s not a request/We really are insisting on this now." Yet whether they’re experimenting with down-tempo dub workouts (complete with eerie melodica) or furious punk conga beats or industrial dance grooves or a vocoder vocal track that brings to mind cheesy house hits, Radio 4 are smart enough to know that in the realm of rock, political views are best changed from the feet up.