The import version of Return the Gift is more interesting

And unfortunately, the onus falls upon me at a time when I'm mentally and physically ravaged by this hellacious flu that's metastasizing through town. After spending two hallucinatory days supping a cocktail of uncontrollable sneezing, coughing and glittery fever, I'm actually feeling like a human being again today, if not exactly well. Last night, in the grip of delirium, I resolved to post a batch of songs that sound incredible when you're sick, really unhinged stuff that complements the shimmering unreality of a high fever. But I decided against it in the clear light of day - to properly appreciate the songs, you'd have to go around licking lampposts until you came down with something terrible, and I wouldn't wish this on anyone. So instead, we're going to look at a couple of instances of reappropriation gone right.

We'll begin with Gang of Four who, after being relentlessly ripped off and name-checked throughout the aughties, decided to get in on the action themselves. The seminal post-punk band recently reunited for Return the Gift, a collection of their classics re-recorded with a modern studio sheen. To be honest, there's not a lot of consumer value in the disc - while Gang of Four claim they weren't satisfied with the original recordings, the tinny stomp of the originals is so indelible that these glossier takes couldn't possibly improve upon them. Here, they reimagine the brittle funk vamp "Natural's Not in It" as a buzzing funk vamp; little is lost or gained. Still, I'm not calling foul - if the old pinkos want to reunite, cashgrab their classics and hawk forty dollars hoodies, more power. The happiest side effect of this pretty throwaway disc is that Gang of Four is touring again, and, without a new album to work, they're digging into the old songs we want to hear, and doing it with aplomb. I had the pleasure of seeing them play last week, and it was intense - even if I'd never heard of Go4, had no inkling of their historical cachet, I would've been blown away by their set, which was remarkably vital for a band at any point in their career, without a whiff of the rote about it.

Or should be, in theory. It comes with a second disc comprised of Gang of Four remixes, but it's surprisingly spotty, given the richness of the source material. Some of the remixes are downright awful and self-indulgent (who invited Hot Hot Heat to the party?), but a couple get it just right, and the cream of the crop has to be Ladytron's awesome "Natural's Not in It" remix. Instead of chopping it up into a bunch of hiccups and twitters, they locate hidden force in the tune, bringing the drums up front and replacing the bassline with an overdriven purr. As is their wont, they focus on lucidity instead of artifice, and come out on top for their efforts.

I doubt I need to say much about Amerie or "1 Thing", since if you listen to the radio at all, you're already intimately familiar with it. I will say that as we approach one of the most daunting times of the year for music critics, i.e. best-of list time, "1 Thing" is locked in epic battle with Antony & the Johnson's "Hope There's Someone" for my number one track of the year, and neither's ceding any ground. They're both so wonderful in such different ways that I don't even know how to compare them. Anyway, it feels a little silly to post such a ubiquitous single, but you'll need it on hand to compare with Clipse's "One Thing", where they hijack that insane beat (those drums, borrowed from the Meters, sound just nuts in the slick and meticulously sculpted context of modern R&B;) and spit flames all over it. Sean Fennessey drops science on Clipse here, but the short version goes - Neptunes proteges come out strong, get lost in the shuffle of label mergers and shit, starting brazenly jacking commercial rap beats and rapping over them on mixtapes you can buy from Clinton Sparks's mixunit.com. The site is an embarrassment of riches, and indie rock bands should take a hint from the more organic and vital milieu of the rap underground - once you step away from the label-sanctioned, album-as-ultimate-statement paradigm, the sky's the limit in terms of what you can get away with. Plagiarism never sounded so ill.