Gossip, A Joyful Noise
Righteous funk-punk, flattering synths and arresting vocals
At the beginning of the last decade, the Gossip were a garage band similar to pre-stardom White Stripes, if they were from Searcy, Arkansas, by way of Olympia, Washington, and led by an out, proud and queer fat advocate. Not anyone’s recipe for mainstream success. Fast-forward to the present: Gossip have massive European hits behind them; they’ve recorded with Rick Rubin and Simian Mobile Disco alike, and on A Joyful Noise, the threesome team with Xenomania’s Brian Higgins, the U.K. production whiz behind dance-pop hits from Girls Aloud, Sugababes, Danni Minogue, Pet Shop Boys and Cher. It’s a journey that would defy all logic except for the fact that frontwoman Beth Ditto possesses an utterly arresting voice, one that conveys extreme levels of intensity while squarely hitting the notes, and that along the way, she and her bandmates learned how to write proper songs.
Guitarist Brace Paine and drummer Hannah Billie still rock out righteously on punk-funk grooves, but this time they’re joined by flattering synths that lend harmonic support to Ditto’s vocals and make the melodies as strong as the rhythms. “Casualites of War” takes them into Fleetwood Mac territory, but they’re just as comfortable conjuring New Order on “Moving in the Right Direction.” “Get a Job” offers the sharpest class commentary since Pulp’s “Common People,” and the rest of the album features simple romantic declarations that mean more because Ditto delivers them as if she’s reliving every emotional tremor as she sings.