La Roux, the English singer (formerly a duo), is not the first person you’d expect to cover Gang of Four. A synthpop artist, she’s appeared on Cover Me a few times over the last decade. And synthpop did sort of emerge from post-punk. Still, Gang of Four’s sound is so angular and so aggressive it’s not something you really associate with synthpoppers.
“Damaged Goods” was Gang of Four’s first ever single and it does an excellent job of introducing listeners to Gang of Four’s famous fusion of angry British punk and American funk. La Roux’s new cover is a lot less aggressive. The music is peppy, dancey synthpop instead of the staccato bass and guitar opening of the original. And even when it moves into its groove, the original is still edgy. La Roux’s vocals also hide the anger: her voice is a high-pitched croon, in comparison to Jon King’s speak-shouting in the original.
The tenor of La Roux’s cover never really changes, which is why it’s important to watch the music video. A little over halfway through the song, La Roux starts assaulting a microwave with a bat. Apparently it’s Gang of Four’s microwave and their bat. Regardless, it’s the only thing that actually reveals the aggression in the original’s lyrics.