Gossip – [Album]

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

After thirteen years of uniformly mixed media coverage, it can only be said that some listeners and critics have just always been confused by Gossip. When the band first burned out of Olympia. WA in 1999, critics couldn't decide how long this dirty shirt rock n' soul trio who owed as much to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as it did to Sleater-Kinney was going to hold together because it just seemed like a great indie rock gimmick at the time. Those same critics got incensed when the band's third full-length album, Standing In The Way Of Control, saw them trading in their drummer as well as examining some more distinctly plastic sounds on a dance-punk tip; at the time, some said the jump was too easy and some said it just wasn't good, while a larger camp than both of those combined thought the fashion-rock/disco angle was great. Such confusion regarding how to receive Gossip may continue now with the release of A Joyful Noise until one stands back and looks at all of the band's records as a group: A Joyful Noise connects the points between rhythm & blues music and all the different variations on the form that the band has played with since they came together, and presents them all as a unified whole. In effect, it could be said that everything the band has done in thirteen years has been to refine their craft and ultimately produce this record because everything else the band has done is here and combined into a single sound that is both excellent and the band's own exclusive province.

Longtime fans of the band will immediately be compelled to sit up and take careful notice of the sound as “Melody Emergency” slinks its way in to open A Joyful Noise. With a deep, rumbling bass line and jarring synth storm, the song swaggers in with some scruff on its chin to thrill listeners before singer Beth Ditto steps up to concede that what listeners are hearing is precisely what they think it is with the words, “You got a head on your shoulders/ You got a bone in your back/ So you're not a rock-n-roller/ and there's nothing wrong with that.”

Those words alone would be enough to get fans feeling this music, but then Nathan Howdeshell's guitar swings forth like a Louisville Slugger just to make sure the point is made. In this first minute alone, listeners get a condensed blast of every sound Gossip has been working with for the last thirteen years at once and, startlingly, they align perfectly with each other; so well, in fact, that hear the results in “Melody Emergency” feels like it might the first time everything has come together and it is, in fact, the first finished song by the band.

As strongly as “Melody Emergency” gets the ball rolling for A Joyful Noise, Gossip keeps pushing to ensure that every sound in their palette is connected and nothing is left out. On “Perfect World,” listeners might think the band has begun to backslide into dance-punk disco static oblivion until Howdeshell's guitar pipes up in the song's chorus to elevate it into the all-important 'anthem' category of songwriting (same with “Get A Job”), while “Casualties” ventures into a more noir-ish climate and “Horns” sounds like a Gossip song circa 1999 would with the benefit of ProTools production and all the trucked-in sounds that go with such a statement. Each of those steps along the way, the band presents each successive song with as dense a sound and structure as possible but keeps the result from sounding scattered because all of those sounds fit together so well; in effect, listeners eventually begin to believe truly that Gossip must have been holding back on every record they released before but, on A Joyful Noise, they've bravely given listeners the totality of their vision to try and absorb. Whether that's actually the case or not is irrelevant, of course, because those who hear this record won't be able to stop themselves from marveling at every song as it plays through.

So what could possibly be coming next from the Gossip? Because A Joyful Noise ties together so many of the ideas that the band has played with over their career so neatly, the answer is anyone's guess. However, if it holds up on the inroads and interconnections between all of their previous work that this album has made, listeners won't be disappointed; it has been too long since soul featured a voice as fresh and new as this or sounded so good.



A Joyful Noise
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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