Standing in the Way of Control

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Tempering the Gossip's righteous fury with just enough focus, Standing in the Way of Control is a huge step forward for the band: thanks to the addition of new drummer Hannah Billie and higher-fidelity production than they've ever used before, now they're just as articulate and immediate as they are impassioned. Beth Ditto's unstoppable voice has even more room to command listeners, and throughout Standing in the Way of Control, she sounds equally convincing as an alluring, soulful diva and as a die-hard riot grrrl. Billie and guitarist Brace Paine are just as versatile, following Ditto's lead on the old-school, garagey outburst "Eyes Open" and the anguished ballad "Coal to Diamonds." The band also experiments with dance beats on Standing in the Way of Control; while this could be seen as riding the very tail-end of the dance-punk trend, the results aren't nearly that predictable. The Gossip's take on this sound is truly punk disco -- catchy and sexy enough for the dancefloor, but with enough fervor and raw energy for punk veterans. On "Yr Mangled Heart," Ditto's howl of "I only want what I deserve!" is backed by handclaps and a shimmying beat that only makes it more indelible. Even more impressive is "Listen Up!," a tale of jealousy, betrayal, and -- surprise, surprise -- gossip that's set, aptly enough, on the playground. Ditto plays cat-and-mouse with the person badmouthing her, circling her prey with a dizzying, cowbell-addled rhythm before going in for the kill. Fortunately, her feelings are just as intense toward her friends as her enemies, and on anthems like "Keeping You Alive" and "Fire with Fire," Ditto is a protectress and crusader. With songs that range from spiky recriminations ("Jealous Girls") to noir brooding ("Dark Lines"), Standing in the Way of Control is a lean but remarkably diverse album that shows that the Gossip have found plenty of ways to come into their own.

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