Gossip swap punk energy for bland pop cliches
A Joyful Noise
It's been six years since Beth Ditto and her largely anonymous band blazed a trail in punk with their much-lauded breakthrough album Standing in the Way of Control.
Now, Ditto is back with an album that sounds so unlike The Gossip (the definite article has subsequently been dropped) and so markedly different that anything she has done before might as well have emerged from a different artist completely.
Ditto says she listened to nothing but Abba for a year in advance of this album and she recruited pop producer Brian Higgins -- of the Xenomania stable -- to help transform her sound.
And Higgins -- who has worked his magic on Girls Aloud, Sugababes and Kylie Minogue -- has certainly done that.
Yet the union of Ditto and Higgins fails spectacularly. Ditto's cocksure attitude has been obliterated -- her vocals, delivery and lyrics could have come from any X Factor hopeful looking for a shot at stardom. And Higgins' usually assured touch has gone astray -- where are the hooks and the choruses that would normally hermetically seal themselves inside your head? They're nowhere to be found here.
Instead, A Joyful Noise is full of such dispiriting fare as Into the Wild, I Won't Play and Horns, which comes replete with such cliche-ridden lyrics as "the beat goes on". Indeed.
There are only fleeting moments that work. Perfect World -- the best song by far -- has a lavish cinematic quality and Ditto appears engaged for once.
Ditto's synth-pop direction was far better served with a Simian Mobile Disco-assisted solo EP last year. Listen to this horrific mis-step and it's no surprise that Mark Ronson was forced to quell rumours on Twitter: "I did not produce the gossip album I did not produce the gossip album I did not produce the gossip album..."
Key track Perfect World
Day & Night