Album: Gossip, Music for Men, (Columbia)
Friday 19 June 2009
Since "Standing in the Way of Control" hoisted Gossip from cult favourites to stars in 2006, Beth Ditto's larger-than-life personality and unfettered outsider opinions have made her the natural focus of media attention, so much so that it would be easy to forget that Gossip is a band, and not just Beth's backing crew. Hence, presumably, the album title - a sardonic hedge against groundless suppositions that she might be addressing a purely lesbian constituency - and the cover photo, which features just the drummer, Hannah Billie, looking like the kind of androgynous rockabilly dreamboat one might find adorning a Morrissey album sleeve.
Having signed the band to Columbia, Rick Rubin protects his investment by also serving as producer, a role in which he's become renowned for refocusing Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond on the spiritual core of their talents. Likewise with Gossip, he doesn't so much alter or embellish what they do, as allow it to come forth with greater clarity and directness. In the case of the single, "Heavy Cross", that results in a retread of "Standing in the Way of Control", with oppositional sentiments set to a sort of anticipatory dynamic, and delivered with trademark Ditto inflections over slash'n'burn punk-funk riffing. Here and on "8th Wonder", it closely resembles the classic Gang of Four formula, with Brace Paine's guitar slashing across the brutal funk groove. It's a noble and apt heritage for a band whose success carries a certain polemical weight, although Gossip are no match for the Go4's knotty ideological proclamations, Ditto restricting herself to the kind of vague generalities that can be delivered in sloganeering phrases such as "We can play it safe, or play it cool", "If there's a risk, I'll take it" and "What goes around comes back around" - a line that has been around the block more times than anyone can remember.
"2012" and "Spare Me from the Mold" are driven infectiously by spartan guitar dance grooves that recall the B-52's, while the club-oriented riffs of the piano-led "Love Long Distance" and "Pop Goes the World" bring to mind the mid-1980s disco-funk approach pioneered by Ze Records. Rubin's skill lies in the way he's managed to sit Ditto's vocals comfortably among the limber arrangements without sounding as if she's in conflict with the music, which was occasionally the case on previous recordings. He's framed her voice to its best advantage, and in doing so he's put paid to the canard that finds Ditto frequently compared to Janis Joplin: throughout this album, Beth is as disciplined as Janis was wont to wallow in indulgent blues mannerisms, her voice designed for cutting rather than clubbing into submission.
DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Heavy Cross', 'Spare Me from the Mold', 'Pop Goes the World', '2012', 'Dimestore Diamond'
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 Kajieme Powell: Missouri police release video footage of second man killed by officers
- 4 Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Laughs go global as Eddie Izzard and Dylan Moran bring international comedians to the Edinburgh Fringe
The Top Ten: Horrible buildings
JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing 'Singing Sorceress' Celestina Warbuck
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Celebrity Big Brother 2014 line-up: Meet the contestants from Lauren Goodger to Kellie Maloney and Audley Harrison
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women