The Gossip: "Listen Up!"

from Standing in the Way of Control (Kill Rock Stars; 2006)

By Mark Abraham | 23 February 2006

A few years ago I read something that tried to peg the Gossip as a perfect union of the White Stripes’ roots revivalism and Le Tigre’s political insight.

I can see the former on this track. When Beth Ditto’s opening verse wafts over high hat and stop/start guitar notes, I can feel the heat of a Woodstock sunset, sound radiating out into an incredibly large and open space. There’s no time for Grace Slick daydreams, however, as Hannah’s percussion kicks in, a mixture of cowbells and trashcan snares punctuate the vocals, and Brace’s guitar switches to highly compressed chords that make the track far more immediate. It’s still bare bones, though, and despite the fact that this is about as wide as the Gossip’s envelope gets pushed, the thing doing the pushing is the cowbell. The intro seems like it would work better if it had something to introduce. I suspect the band gets away with this stuff when they add a little swagger to it in a live setting, but put to tape it doesn’t quite carry (which, to be fair, is how I basically feel about the Stripes).

As to the latter, I’m not so sure. This trio have a gossipyoutharmy, and according to their website they’re activists who love change and art and that’s totally hardcore, right? Except that here I’m at a loss as to what precisely I’m supposed to “listen up!” to: some vague declarations (“there’s some people that you just can’t trust” and “don’t be a fool”), I guess? The central metaphor of the schoolyard countdown chant (“on the playground we learn so much”) offers nothing more blood-riling than “3, 4, so much trouble in store.” Ooh. Politics needn’t inform art, but come on—if you’re going to list “art” and “change” as the top two things your band likes, I think I can expect a little of both. Put this on at a party, but I wouldn’t bother with it for your next protest.