Gossip A Joyful Noise

Gossip A Joyful Noise
The naysayers have been decrying Gossip lead singer/songwriter Beth Ditto's transformation from thrashing, snarling garage-punk rocker to stylized electro-pop princess for what feels like forever. But, like regular folks, musicians are allowed to move on. It's been 12 years since Gossip's crunchy debut, That's Not What I Heard. Could anyone back then, even Ditto, have predicted the band's fifth album, A Joyful Noise, would be a full-fledged dance-pop assault. In interviews leading up to the album's release, Ditto has talked extensively about her innate confidence and the awareness that accompanies turning 30 (she's 31 now). Long praised as a poster girl for the LGBT and plus-sized community, Ditto is an inspirational figure for a very vocal minority. That, coupled with Gossip's music, kept them somewhat niche, but A Joyful Noise could find itself in heavy rotation in major markets. Some will call it selling out, but that's not entirely fair. Rather, it's a natural manifestation of that confidence; it's Ditto making mainstream music better. And what joyful noise it is, taking the majority of its sonic cues from '70s disco heroes like ABBA, Bee Gees and Donna Summers. It's a fun, flirty record equally perfect for freak dancing amidst the sweaty masses as the soundtrack to an epic workout as it is an adrenaline-pumping pick-me-up during a marathon study session. From opener "Melody Emergency," it's clear that Ditto's voice is the star. It floats above the chaotic bass and guitars with assertive clarity, like a bird soaring over the apocalypse. Spacey standout "Casualties of War" marries Ditto's vocals with her occasional forays into exquisite lyricism, asking rhetorical gems like, "When you fall down/do you hear the sound/of broken dreams hitting the ground?' "Love in a Foreign Place" is a banging club kid track, but is grounded by pointedly autobiographical memories, as Ditto recalls, "All I ever wanted was more than life in a small town." The disco-funk of "Horns" has loads of attitude, flaring loud and quiet; it's soul revival with edge. Add these to the album's hypnotically catchy first single, "Perfect World," and the ode to self-empowerment, "Move in the Right Direction," and it's easy to imagine Lady Gaga listening to A Joyful Noise and crying enough tears to brine all the meat dresses in the world. (Columbia)