Album Review: Gossip - A Joyful Noise

11 June 2012 | 12:46 pm | Mac McNaughton

What’s left is an album falling some way short of greatness, of disposable music for pleasure.

My favourite Gossip story was when the Bush administration used Standing In The Way Of Control as part of their re-election campaign, not realising it was a protest song against their own anti-equality policies. The band walked away with a tidy purse of royalties... Which they promptly ploughed into funding the fight for gay rights. Good old Gossip - always doing things their own bloody way.

Beth Ditto may declare herself an unabashed punk but five albums into her career, her voice now sounds ready to cut loose from the confines of a power-pop group. The absolutely heartbreaking Casualties Of War channels Madonna at the height of her powers when it seemed a future on the stage wasn't out of the question. When she sings “I'd like to stay and party but I've got to go to work” (in Get A Job), one wonders if she's actually thinking about her future with the band. Every other second on A Joyful Noise sounds meticulously spit and polished to maximize pop-impact, thanks to the symbiosis of the three members providing cracking songs to Xenomania's Brian Higgins (Kylie, Sugababes) who sits behind the control panel. And that's where it comes unhinged. Gossip (there's no 'The', if you don't mind) work best with an element of danger, of unpredictability and Xenomania provide none of that. Lead single, Perfect World breaks free as an unstoppable force of urgency but the support material seems almost drowned in over-production. Killer guitar riffs are surgically removed and replaced with Castro appeasing retro-rave bounciness.

What's left is an album falling some way short of greatness, of disposable music for pleasure.