Album Reviews

Gossip – Real Power

(Sony) UK release date: 22 March 2024

A back-to-basics approach reunited with producer Rick Rubin sets out to recapture Beth Ditto and co’s glory days

Gossip - Real Power It’s been 12 years since we last heard from Gossip, and you’d have been forgiven if you’d thought they’d just quietly decided to wind things down. The trio’s last record, A Joyful Noise, was a not entirely successful collaboration with Brian Higgins of Xenomania (who of course produced the majority of Girls Aloud‘s best moments), with the more poppy sound being a somewhat uncomfortable fit.

Powerhouse lead singer Beth Ditto has released just one solo record since then (2017’s Fake Sugar) and has seemingly decided that her extraordinary voice is best heard in tandem with bandmates Brace Paine and Hannah Blilie. Real Power, the band’s sixth album, embraces a back-to-basics approach, even re-uniting with Music For Men‘s producer, the legendary Rick Rubin, and the results go some way to recapturing the band’s glory days.

For Real Power is a return to the ferociously energetic, stomping punk-disco sound that everyone who fell in love to all-time classic Standing In The Way Of Control will recognise. Tracks like the opening Act Of God, the title track and Edge Of The Sun are pretty much perfect indie-rock songs that show Ditto’s impossibly soulful voice. Yet the impressive thing about Real Power is the layers it reveals on repeated listening.

There’s a terrifically funky Nile Rodgers-style guitar lick that introduces Give It Up For Love which bursts into an irresistibly catchy chorus, while Crazy Again takes the tempo down a notch, being a wistful yet relentlessly driving ode to the dizziness and rush of new love. The quieter moments work equally well, with the shimmering guitars reminiscent of The xx‘s early work on Turn The Card Slowly being a particular highlight, and the acoustic ballad Peace And Quiet showing off Ditto’s inimitable voice to its very best advantage.

Although Ditto’s vocals naturally dominate the songs on Real Power, the interplay between Paine and Blilie gives the tracks their depth. The droney hum on Tell Me Something nods towards the band’s earlier days, while Blilie’s taut, tense drumming on the excellent title track gives it an added momentum. Rubin obviously knows how to get the best out of the band, be it on the enormous dance-rock numbers or with a more stripped-down sound.

That title track was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and it’s good to see that, over a decade after Standing In The Way Of Control soundtracked the campaign for equal marriage, the band haven’t let their political awareness become dimmed by age. The messages are never overshadowed by the hooks though – the chorus of Edge Of The Sun is likely to worm its way into your brain and stay there for some time.

The album does seem to tail off a bit towards the end – as nice as Light It Up and Tough are, they both seem disappointingly sedate ways to bring the album to a close compared to the succession of instantly engaging anthems that preceded them. Other than that, though, there’s enough evidence on Real Love that the fire that inspired Gossip is still burning as bright as ever.

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More on Gossip
Gossip – Real Power
Gossip – A Joyful Noise
Gossip – Music For Men