The Gossip – Music for Men
Columbia (UK release: 6/22/09; North American digital release: 6/23/09)
Indie rock / Electro rock / Garage rock
Music For Men, the first major-label album by The Gossip, has garnered some pretty positive reviews so far. The Oregon-based DIY trio, featuring the always-charismatic Beth Ditto on vocals, have seen massive success over the years (not Rolling Stones-caliber success, but pretty fucking good for an indie band), hitting it big in the U.K., with chart-topping tunes and a litany sold-out shows and festivals. While hipsters and critics on this side of the pond have been privy to the group, I’d be remiss not to point out that The Gossip still haven’t seen more than a fraction of the success here in North America.
The Gossip is a band that I have known about since they first emerged on the scene. That said, I’ve never really given them a chance up until now, and never took to try and soak in any of their previous material.
After doing so, I can safely say that I could not wait for it to end.
In no way am I saying that Music for Men is a bad album, as it is not at all. In fact, the production is unbelievable (compliments of Mr. Rick Rubin), and everything sounds as it should. But maybe that is part of the problem—this twelve-song set ends up being intensely boring and predictable.
The first track, “Dimestore Diamonds” is a brilliant tune. It has a very simple combination of drums, bass and vocals, with a beat that will in most cases result in copious foot-tapping (think Blondie-esque ’70s vibe). And Ditto’s voice is phenomenal, as she can really belt it out while making it sound so clean and full. They have almost an early White Stripes quality with the simplicity of the instruments to the vocals, and that said, this is the only track on the album that I would consider listening to again.
“For Keeps” follows, and this is when the album becomes much more of a disco-funk outing, which is a bit of a departure from the album opener. If that makes it sound like something that’ll make you want to get up and dance, think again. All of the tracks seem to play it extremely safe here, with a common formula of quiet verses followed by heavier choruses, repeat, and repeat again, and there it is.
We’ve heard so much about a band that knows how to tear shit up, but these songs tend to come across as vacuum-packed for the masses (probably not a coincidence, as again, this is the band’s first major-label release). These tracks are like someone just played you something they came up with in their bedroom, and you listen and smile, telling them it is really “nice,” when really, your thinking, “That’s it, that is what you were so hyped up about? I think about 50 bands have done that already.”
It feels like there are these three really talented people (especially Ditto, she can really fucking sing!!) that are just being lazy. It may be super dancy and try to be heavy with tracks like “Men in Love” and “Vertical Rhythm”, but listening to it is repetitive, slow and makes you antsy to get up and do anything but continue listening.
Sometimes an album starts slow , and then all of a sudden you’re blown away by a track or two that comes out of nowhere. It was quite the opposite here. Not a single song was catchy enough to be stuck in my head (even the U.K. single “Heavy Cross”, with its smattering of electro-funk, comes of as a wee bit pedestrian). I can see this becoming something that the masses of underage hipsters will enjoy, but for anyone who wants substance in the music they listen to, this is not where to find it. This can’t possibly be the kind of material that’s made Beth Ditto a media darling, can it? Or maybe singing in her underwear has something to do with it…
Tags: rolling stones, White Stripes