Album Review: Gossip – Music for Men

Gossip’s first major label studio album, Music for Men, is a beverage made with natural sugar, lacking the sickening sweetness of other propulsive dance friendly music; but still containing the familiar, and expected, carbonated sting.

Produced by bearded wizard, Rick Rubin, the album is sparser than most dance records, leaving more than enough room for Beth Ditto’s strong chesty vocal to propel the music forward. I know what you’re thinking, great, another indie-rock-post-punk wannabe electro record. You’d be right in thinking that, the album contains elements of this soon to be irritating trend, but what makes it almost stand above is the aforementioned vocal. Her voice isn’t the sultry, whispy vocal you’d expect to hear in dance music. Ditto does not do quiet, no sir, there aren’t any Regina Spektor whispers or yelps on this album – it is a punk rock singer’s approach to melody backed by steady rhythm and chunky guitars.

Gossip leans heavily on minor progressions to keep the tunes on the darker side of grey – such is evident in the “Four Letter Word” -– an offering to that fearful word, love. She sings, “…and it looks like it’s gonna rain again/ oh another four letter word/ I never wanna see your face again/ oh another four letter word.” The juxtaposition of love as a curse is what makes the song work; and the juxtaposition of Ditto’s straightforward vocal style against the groove of the music is what makes the rest of the album tick.

Unfortunately, despite some stylistic approaches, the beats are so locked in that they sound programmed. This, of course is a compliment to drummer, Hannah Billie, but leaves every song sounding like an antiquated disco tune. Even Gossip acknowledges this with nods to Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”, on “Men in Love”. Relatively speaking, there are two standout songs, the single, “Heavy Cross” and the spunky; “Love Long Distance”, but these are just glitters in an otherwise drab album. Gossip works best when it moves into the extremes –- this is especially evident on “Heavy Cross”, where Ditto’s vocal goes from a soft belt to an all out screaming challenge –- if they aren’t working from the farthest reaches of their sound, it comes off as nice and safe, which doesn’t feel like the essence of the band.

Overall, the record is a vanilla approach to a flash-in-the pan sound that, given the purposeful choices of the band, isn’t innovative or expansive, in fact, most of the songs on Music for Men run into one another, keeping the feet tapping, but not much more else. Maybe they unconsciously felt this as well, as “Vertical Rhythm” aptly put it, “You’re so conventional, it’s comical you always do the same thing”. It’s a background record for a party where only the beat matters. Due to the one-gear vocal, the delay riddled funk guitar, and the constant four to the floor drums, this one ends up on the bottom end of my record collection.

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Music for Men


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