Gossip: An evolution of sound and spirit on new album “Real Power”

Originally from Searcy, Arkansas, Beth Ditto, guitarist Brace Paine (aka Nathan Howdeshell), and drummer Kathy Mendonça moved to Olympia, Washington and formed the band in 1999. The trio combined blues, garage, and punk into a forceful style that they debuted on that year’s self-titled 7″ on K Records, which was released while they were on tour with Sleater-Kinney. The band took their incendiary live show to the first Ladyfest festival in August 2000 before releasing their debut album That’s Not What I Heard later in the year. The album was praised for Gossip’s raw approach, and the band members became icons in the LGBTQ indie community thanks to coverage in magazines like Out and The Advocate.

After touring with the White Stripes and again with Sleater-Kinney, Gossip returned to the studio to record 2002’s Arkansas Heat EP, which continued in the fierce vein of That’s Not What I Heard. For their second full-length, May 2003’s Movement, the band leaned into the dance-punk underpinnings of their music. Gossip’s first live album, Undead in NYC, appeared that September; two months later, Mendonça left the group to become a midwife. Drummer Hannah Blilie joined the band before they made January 2006’s Standing in the Way of Control. Recorded with Ryan Hadlock and Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto at Seattle’s Bear Creek Studios, the album honed Gossip’s attack, putting the focus on Blilie’s sharply danceable rhythms and Ditto’s fusion of post-punk, country, and R&B vocal stylings. Standing in the Way of Control translated the band’s critical acclaim into commercial success: It reached number 22 in the U.K., where it was certified gold, and also appeared on the French and Belgian Albums charts.

Following Standing in the Way of Control‘s breakthrough, Gossip emphasized the dance elements of their music with the GSSP RMX EP and a deluxe version of Control that included a remix by Soulwax. In 2007, the band appeared on the True Colours tour with the likes of Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry, Rufus Wainwright, and Erasure; later in the year, the concert album Live in Liverpool, which was produced by Rick Rubin, appeared in the U.K. (it was released in early 2008 in the U.S. by the band’s new label, the Sony imprint Red Ink). Rework-It, a remix compilation, followed in mid-2008, with Music for Men appearing in June 2009. Also produced by Rubin, the album tightened and polished Standing in the Way of Control‘s sound and built on its success, expanding Gossip’s fan base dramatically.

Peaking at number eight on the Heatseekers Chart in the U.S., Music for Men was a Top 20 hit in the U.K. and entered the Top Ten in three other countries. It was certified double platinum or platinum in several European countries, including France and Germany (where the single “Heavy Cross” enjoyed a record-breaking stay on the singles chart), and gold in Belgium and Australia. Several editions of the album followed, including a German release that included videos and live tracks.

Gossip returned in May 2012 with their fifth album, A Joyful Noise. Co-produced by Brian Higgins of the English songwriting and production team Xenomania, the album moved the band’s music in a more overtly pop direction. Debuting at 47 in the U.K. and at 100 in the U.S., Music for Men continued the band’s popularity in Europe, going gold in France and Germany. After touring in support of the album, Gossip disbanded when Paine returned to Arkansas. Ditto pursued a solo career, releasing her debut album, Fake Sugar, in 2017. However, the band reunited in 2019 to play a few shows commemorating the tenth anniversary of Music for Men‘s release. The gigs became a world tour, and by the end of the year, Gossip were recording at Rubin’s home studio in Hawaii. Though sessions were paused during the worst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, they returned to the studio in 2021. In November 2023, the band released “Crazy Again,” their first single in over a decade.

It heralded today’s Real Power, which found Gossip in a more confessional and reflective frame of mind than on their earlier albums.

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About J.N.

Music researcher with an unhealthy passion for music and music festivals. Former studio owner, semi-functional drummer and with a fairly good collection of old analogue synthesizers from the 70's. Indie rock, post rock, electronic/industrial and drum & bass (kind of a mix, yeah?) are usual stuff in my playlists but everything that sounds good will fit in.
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