May 3, 2012
First Listen: Gossip's A Joyful Noise
When the iconic Beth Ditto released her dance EP last summer, there was a collective wail of "more please." Ditto and her band, Gossip, have come through with the aptly titled A Joyful Noise. Producer Brian Higgins (Xenomania/ Girls Aloud) takes the band's melodic rock and sprays it with a sleek disco sheen. It's the sound of a band coming into its own.
UPDATE: UK fans can stream the album NOW at The Guardian (and on mobile)
A joyful track by track of what to expect:
1 Melody Emergency Of all the songs on Noise, this has the strongest link to the band's rock/punk past. [Shameless boast alert:] And yes, bitchez, the producer Brian Higgins played me this himself in his studio back in November 2011. Three snaps, z formation. The whole time I was at Xeno HQ, I kept hearing Beth's vocals floating through the house. No joke, it was an amazing day.
1 Perfect World, the first single, literally glistens with twilight synths. It's a surprising - and moving - choice of single because it's neither the soul-influenced rock of Gossip's past nor is it Ditto's minimalist dance music. This is mature, dark pop with an emotional core. Stream it here
3 Get A Job opens with a slayer chant: "I’d love to stay and party, but I gotta go to work!" That is all you need to know about this standout. Drag queens rejoice.
4 Move In The Right Direction If Melody Emergency is the most classically Gossip track, this sleek disco number is the most redolent of its producer's hand. Neither he nor the band may agree, but I think you could, quite literally, weld Girls Aloud's vocals to this one, it's that Xenomania.
5 Casualties Of War reminds me of Debbie Harry's softer solo tracks. In fact, the whole album has a bit of Harry influence in its pop variety. In this case, spare balladry, carried by Ditto's cooling vocals. No drama here, just [melancholic] honesty. "I'm doing well. I'm fighting tears, you couldn't tell. I'm not as strong as you thought I was."
6 Into The Wild Bass heavy mid-tempo carried by a strong vocal. "You want me to be honest.... and I quickly became your worst fear." This is not a happy affair, but the song itself is a real grower. "We'll self destruct together. It's all over now."
7 Get Lost Major highlight. It starts deceptively (sort of Supremes retro) before a big-ass 90's house-keyboard chorus lifts it off. Get Lost will sound best in your convertible this July.
8 Involved The backing track has a militaristic feel, but what leaps out to me is the lyrical hook: "I'm not in love with you, I'm just involved with you." Can her words be trusted? Maybe not: "You were on my mind 99% of the time."
9 Horns A bit of fuzzy guitar on this funk pop groove. Xenomania never gilds the lily: it's characteristic of their production to hear a brilliant idea used just once or for a few seconds. The horns of the title are laced into the chorus, but it's not trumpet overkill. This one'll sound great next to Gossip oldies at live shows.
10 I Won't Play More bass-y grooves and some very eighties synths on the pre-chorus (or is that the first chorus? It's Xenomania, after all) followed by a crunching bigger chorus. "I gave you so many chances, but you screwed with my love." Again with the Xeno economy: the wicked cool final seconds fade out too soon.
11 Love In A Foreign Place A Joyful Noise ends on a high note with this slammer. Slow burn verses and a pounding chorus. A meet-your-lover-on-vacation track, in case you didn't guess from the title. A great conclusion. Play this LOUD.
The most pop moment Gossip's ever had. Smooth and fizzy and always emotional, thanks to Beth Ditto's gorgeous wailing. One quibble: the album cover neither speaks to the music - this isn't a Manson album! - nor does it beg for sales. It's creepy. There's always something edgy that keeps them on the indie side and this image is it.
And the first video, Perfect World: