Viewing a Gossip performance is a heavy rock, theatrical and altogether visceral experience. Vocal-goddess, Beth Ditto has been a favorite vocalist of mine since I was in high school. As a seedling being barely introduced to the bewitching ways of indie-black magic, her voice beckoned me from the depths of conventional pop droll while satisfying my ever queer, alt-rock loving origins.
I was standing at a small, Latin American set put on by Caradura, a Mexico City alt and indie rock bar this year at South By Southwest in Austin, TX. As I mulled about, chit chatting with a sexy Chilean, I noticed I was swaying to a side beat, a voice calling from above, quite literally. The voice was coming from above us. There was another show, as is customary for the compounding cacophony that is SXSW, transpiring right on top of us in the space upstairs. The vocals were deep, passionate, wild and more than arousing. I couldn’t figure out what was happening to me as I tried to maintain focus on the downstairs performance, but my hips, knees and pregnant ears got sucked towards this woman’s voice. As the music on the main floor subsided and the rock fest raged on in the lofty, unknown heights beyond, I soon realized, duh, the angelic stylings belted from the unknown were none other than the Gossip.
For anyone who’s witnessed the Ditto in person, you’ll note the dico diva’s mesmerizing abilities, her siren seduction and the absolute frenzy she induces in her audience. On A Joyful Noise, the band’s fifth studio release, it seems as though these legends have somehow managed to go back in time to their early career success. Capturing the initial vigor of their all or nothing sensibilities, while sustaining the steady dance solos and Olympic fusion of glamorous guitars (Nathan Howdeshell) and abiding beats (Hannah Blilie). With production work by Brian Higgins, better known for his work with Kylie Minogue and the Pet Shop Boys, it’s no wonder the latest installation by these queer-icons piles on the pancake makeup and gives a fabulous and measured array.
Ditto dishes out her usual sass on every song, but some of my favorites have to be stashed up in the beginning of A Joyful Noise. Opening track “Melody Emergency” sense ambulances into the night club and performs CPR on our eardrums. The following, “Perfect World,” pillows utopia. But something hit a nerve on “Get a Job.” It stands out from the rest of the album. Reminding me of Simian Mobile Disco’s “Hustler,” I can’t help but note the freestyle influences at play. Here, Ditto captures the realities of our economic hardships with a biting, snide chastisement, a cruelty and conviction that begs for all our punishment. “Get a Job” spanked me in true BDSM fashion for being a bohemian bum. I need to get a real job, dammit.
The rest of the album oscillates between the usual diva dives, jazzing it up a little, but doesn’t quite pack the same bass blaring, guttural instrumentals as the start. Instead, the rest of A Joyful Noise drifts out gracefully, with style and sincerity, poetic intervals and of course bold assertiveness.
Don’t miss the Gossip’s Berlin album release party tomorrow in Boystown. It’s a absolute must.