On their fifth and, quite possibly, best album since their 2000 debut That’s Not What I Heard, this Olympia by-way-of Searcy, Arkansas outfit are back making some good time noise. Sure, it’s easy to merely label the Gossip as just “dance-punk” the “new, new wave” but they have been doing what they have been doing since long before bored kids in small UK towns (or US towns for that matter) were saying: “Lets make music like Gang of Four used to.” What also sets The Gossip apart from their musical peers is that while most bands with similar instrumental musings are fronted by singers with snotty or stuffy voices, this troupe is lead by the soulful and steel-bending pipes of frontwoman Beth Ditto. With the addition of new drummer Hannah Billie (Shoplifting, Chromatics) on the stick duty and Guy Picciotto (Fugazi, Blonde Redhead) in the engineer’s seat, The Gossip have hit the ground running with their post punk meets Muscle Shoals sound.
The album starts out with the burly bass of “Fire with Fire” which contains a tempo similarly haughty to that of Franz Ferdinand’s “This Fire.” Speaking of tempos, the one that starts out on “Jealous Girls” would lead one to believe that the Jets and Sharks are about to throw down (the only thing missing is the finger snapping) before it fades into a sputtering rhythmic breakdown.
Bands like the Gossip have the ability to make even the most jaded of listeners get up out of their seat and start dancing, but all of those uncontrollable dance jitters consist of a hip-shaking or torso-twisting formula. With tracks like the serrated honky tonk boogie of “Eyes Open,” the dance formula will most likely be feet shuffling and hand clapping.
Sure, Ditto’s demeanor comes off as significantly more sassy than she has been on any of the Gossip’s previous releases, but if anything, this time around she has solidified herself as a bonafide diva. Just look to the bluesy clopping amidst a foreboding layer on “Coal to Diamonds” and the Lady Sings the Blues-esque “Dark Lines.”
While some may find the rhythmic pace and/or basslines to be repetitive throughout the album, Standing in the Way of Control is still an iron clad effort. Non-believers take note: the Gossip’s word is worth preaching.
Sleater-Kinney – One Beat
The Soviettes – The Soviettes LP
The Muffs – The Muffs