Unlike most of their British pals during punk’s heyday, Gang of Four wrote intelligent, danceable songs and could actually play their instruments. The duo’s pioneering mix of screeching guitars and throbbing beats can now be heard in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Urban Dance Squad, and many other currently fashionable groups. But are the originals still the greatest? Frankly, yeah. Mall, Gang of Four’s new album, still sears more often than not, largely due to Andy Gill’s guitar squealing and the uncanny knack that he and singer Jon King have for painting a broad, disturbing picture with a few lyrical strokes. With tunes like ”Money Talks” — including scattered references to Elvis Presley, Cadillacs, and ”Saigon poontang” — ”Mall” is, like its namesake, great fun and entirely symptomatic of our excessive times. You could do worse than hang out there. A-

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