Gossip // A Joyful Noise // May 14 // Columbia
Depending on how old you are and how much attention you pay to music that flies under the radar you might remember the long gone days when Washington’s three piece Gossip were actually a punk band. If you do then you certainly remember the days when Standing In The Way Of Control was literally everywhere: radio, music channels, soundtracks and everything in between. You might remember when the singer Beth Ditto stood up for big girls by appearing naked on the cover of NME and turning thousands of men throughout the nation gay. If you do remember that then their fifth album A Joyful Noise is definitely something you’ll want to forget.
For whatever the reason, Gossip dropped their punk act on their fourth LP Music For Men before Ditto elaborated on that and delivered a glammed up camp fest that was her self-titled solo EP. A Joyful Noise is by no means a return to the sound that made them relevant in the first place as here we find Gossip diving even deeper into the nether regions of camp. Ditto might be an advocate for large women but on here she sings along to such mediocre pop tunes that are usually delivered by skinny and airbrushed model-cum-singer primadonnas. She doesn’t deliver any of the attitude that made her such an icon between gays when Standing In The Way Of Control came out. As a gay leaning dance act Gossip feel like sub par Scissor Sisters without any substance, memorable tunes or anything that would justify a blues punk band gone electro pop. The songs on here might have much more keyboards than they do guitars but A Joyful Noise is not exactly club friendly as none of the moments on here are true dancefloor classics in the making. Even the first single Perfect World doesn’t offer much pop bliss, instead aiming for for the generic faux-euphoria that electro pop bands do on their comeback singles. It’s sad to see a band that once brimmed with personality to become mediocre pop bores.
Before anyone thinks that things can’t be that bad right? It’s just the same good old Gossip with some keyboards thrown in the mix right? They still have tons of charisma right? How wrong are you? A Joyful Noise is produced by Brian Higgins of Xenomania fame, you know, the ones that produced all the biggest Sugababes’ and Girls Aloud’ hits. It’s visible not only in the production but songwriting department too, despite the fact that he only co-wrote a couple track on here. Ditto and co were obviously aiming for such mid 00s generic pop sound. I mean, Get A Job is surely a Girls Aloud reject. The sort of stuff that is just plain embarrassing to be caught listening to. Get Lost sounds like a mid 90s power ballad flirting with house music and yet, it’s one of the best tracks on here. Involved might be lyrically closer to what the band used to do with its chorus of “I’m not in love with you, I’m just involved” showing a certain degree of female empowerment that Gossip used to surround them with but even then, what once felt like a group of punks that would rather kick you in the face now feel like someone more settled down and having false pretenses that they’re hiding from you. Just like the album cover then. Ditto might pretend that her eyes are open but it’s not hard to tell that everything here is a disguise, one that is neither tricking nor pleasing anyone.
Forget 2006. Fast forward six years Gossip are now gay man’s Rapture but unlike New York dance punk vets, Gossip are neither innovating nor making brilliant pop music. Listening to A Joyful Noise loud is equal to accidentally coming out. It escapes me what Gossip were intending to achieve with this record but you can’t help but feel that it’s over for this three piece. The attitude is gone, the sound is gone, the appeal is gone. Next thing you know Ditto will lose all her weight and marry a man.