wears the trousers magazine

gossip: music for men (2009)
June 23, 2009, 9:30 am
Filed under: album, review, video | Tags: , , , ,


Music For Men ••

This is your wake-up call. The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes – an appropriate perspective given Beth Ditto’s penchant for rolling around naked in front of the camera. Some will no doubt swear blind that St Beth is unremittingly wonderful, flying the flag for queer sensibility and challenging body stereotypes. Well, look at the flipside. Isn’t it desperately sad that Gossip, as a band, is represented in popular consciousness by Beth Ditto’s naked body and not, say, by their music? Ditto is as relentlessly self-promoting and as much indebted to the consumer society’s addiction to the manufactured image as Britney Spears. However, to put it bluntly, we are supposed to believe that she is subverting that culture simply by virtue of being overweight. You can make up your own mind about that one, but, as The Times candidly pointed out, the person who goes from slagging off Kate Moss to being best buds in the space of a heartbeat is surely following the profit rather than principles.

The music, of course, is what we are really here to talk about. The media machine would probably like us to forget that Gossip are, in fact, a band. But we shan’t. You could be quite cruel and say, of Music For Men, that ‘Standing In The Way of Control’ is followed by ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’, with ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ coming next. That’s a step too far, but it is perhaps worth noting that the temptation is there. It definitely feels pointless to analyse tracks on an individual basis, since they all sound the same. Gossip suffer from a lack of light and shade. The formula is: pacey drums, heavy bass, then Ditto launching over the top with that patented ‘fierce’ wail. It’s always felt slightly too close to the much-missed Sleater-Kinney, and it never reaches the raw depths of self-loathing that Corin Tucker brought to the table. This is probably because, lyrically, Ditto is always giving someone a telling off – always – and it quickly becomes wearisome.

Perhaps a more apt comparison is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with whom Gossip share the double-edged benefit of an ultra-charismatic lead singer. Much like Gossip, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been frequently accused of being more about image; however, this year’s It’s Blitz laid all that firmly to rest with the tender vulnerability displayed by Karen O on tracks such as ‘Hysteric’ and ‘Little Shadow’ showing that the band really could mix up their punk-lite aesthetic with disarmingly good results. Music For Men doesn’t achieve the same thing for Gossip because of its unrelenting sameness, which tends to eliminate whatever good moments there are. ‘8th Wonder’ puts head and shoulders above the dross for an all too brief gasp, as does current single ‘Heavy Cross’, but because every song trades on the same tricks, they sound unremarkable in the long run.

Because of this, the sentiment of closer ‘Spare Me From The Mold’ is more than a little embarrassing. Gossip are stuck in the mould, so to speak, churning out the album that everyone expected. No surprises, no delight, no joy. Definitely nothing of the order of ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’, which, it has to be conceded, was spine-tingling for the briefest of moments before it got so desperately over-played. Perhaps the best thing that could happen to the band is for them to crash and burn with Music For Men, thus forcing a rethink. It won’t happen this time around, though. There’s plenty of appetite for more of the same, sadly, but it’s easy to see whatever album that follows in the future falling on deaf ears. Familiarity breeds contempt and Music For Men sees Gossip with their buttocks firmly entrenched in laurels.

Scott Sinclair
UK release date: 22/06/09; www.myspace.com/gossipband


‘Heavy Cross’


6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I hate to be an indie hipster, but the Gossip’s good days are obviously over since every single popular magazine has a four-page spread of Ditto and some whining about body image (usually in stark contrast to all the other content in the magazine).

Who is to blame for this, anyway? I really hope it’s just some evil corporate producer of Sony’s who did this to their sound — because it’ll be quite easy to get rid of these. If, on the other hand, the band themselves is in sellout/pop mode, there’s no hope left… (also: why is this stuff being promoted like it was their debut?)

Comment by funkycoder

Rick Rubin is the producer, isn’t he? I was a bit surprised by how glossy the video is for “Heavy Cross”. They do seem to be taking the whole major label ride. Hope it doesn’t end in tears.

Comment by Val

I can think of lots of boring-indie-boybands whose songs sound the same, I don’t think that’s true of The Gossip..

Comment by m

did you even listen to this record? could it possibly be more different than standing in the way of control? how is men in love, four letter word, or love long distance like ANYTHING they have ever done in the past? you’re just hell-bent on hating it, and your useless, sloppy critique reflects that. glad to notice that ‘wears the trousers’ thinks gossip is cranking out more of the same, while the pipettes are a unique, multifaceted, cover-worthy band? riiiight.

Comment by claudia

Your point about The Pipettes is rather redundant seeing as that cover is over 3 years old. It’s quite possible that they’ll be cranking out more of the same when they finally get around to releasing their next album, and we’ll no doubt call them on it if they do.

I personally haven’t listened to the Gossip album but I’m confident Scott put in the hours and approached it with an open mind as ever.

Comment by Wears The Trousers magazine

[…] Seasons [Martyn Clayton 15/4] 36 Matteah Baim – Laughing Boy [Anja McCloskey 17/4] 37 Gossip – Music For Men [Scott Sinclair 23/6]  38 Lady Sovereign – Jigsaw [Charlotte Richardson Andrews 13/4] 39 […]

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