Gossip – A Joyful Noise

New ABBA-inspired direction from Arkansas trio comes up short.

Released: 14/05/2012 on Columbia Records

It's hard to think of Gossip without immediately thinking about Beth Ditto's public persona, her… um, phenomenal self-confidence and, of course, their as yet untopped hit from 2006, ‘Standing in the Way of Control’.

A Joyful Noise, their fifth studio album, sees Gossip taking a different and quite obviously more mainstream approach. It’s produced by Xenomania founder Brian Higgins, the man who brought us the refined sounds of such great luminaries like the Sugababes and Girls Aloud. It is an easier album to listen to than their previous output and is decidedly more pop and dance than punk, garage rock and attitude. Which is not to say that it’s worse or better, it's just less raw and demanding and lacks that fire which made ‘Standing in the Way of Control’ so great.

Still, there are elements to enjoy here and kudos to Gossip for trying a new direction. A direction which Ditto’s herself claims is largely inspired by the more polished clean sounds of ABBA; a brave move for a music trio that established their fan base on quite the opposite sounds and looks.

The album starts off with ‘Melody Emergency’, which I thought I was going to like a lot - it has a rumbling bass beat but the song doesn’t build or go anywhere. It ends up being bland and the repeated lyrical peaks of “woo-oooh-ooooh-oh-ohs... animaaaal / emooootional” become highly irritating. I was pretty glad when it stopped and ‘Perfect World’ started. It’s a song with a much more strident anthemic feel, and the kind you could put on whilst needing encouragement to run that extra crappy mile on the treadmill. And then ugh, ‘Move in the Right Direction’ came on, and with it that ubiquitous poppy dance sound that really doesn’t have much to commend it. The lyrics are, frankly, pants too.

‘Casualties Of War’ offers some reprieve with a lovely guitar twanging intro and somewhat darker, more melancholic sounds, which showcase Ditto's clear singing vocals and give the album more depth. ‘Into the Wild’ follows; it’s a song which I liked but possibly only because the intro reminded me vaguely of ‘Genius of Love’ by Tom Tom Club. I have to be honest and say that the cheesy heavy handed disco house feel of ‘Get Lost’ really worked for me but I can’t imagine that more traditional fans of Gossip will be impressed.

The last song on A Joyful Noise, ‘Love in a Foreign Place’ is unfortunate choice for a closer as it feels forced, over-constructed and without Ditto’s vocals it would sounds like any other synthy-pop generic girl band tune. And this about summarises my overall feel for the album: up and down, but nothing standout. There’s no sizzle and no fire here and nothing boldly inventive or exciting and new, which is basically what you would want from a band like Gossip – so here’s hoping for something better next time around.

Turn On: Perfect World, Into The Wild, Casualties Of War, Get Lost

Turn Off: Melody Emergency, Move in the Right Direction

UnderSong Rating
5/10 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆