Verdict: 2.5 / 5
Despite Beth Ditto’s captivating voice, Gossip’s fifth album is a lackluster affair.
I was not overly familiar with the band’s previous work and only knew about them through Ditto’s strong presence in the music press and the odd song on commercial radio. When researching the band’s history and the critical reception of ‘A Joyful Noise’ two critiques that were spot on about this new record and the band’s work in general are uninspired lyrics and limp melodies that do not do justice to Beth Ditto’s voice. I would add oversimplified songwriting and an under developed, weak rhythm section to that list as well. These gripes do not diminish Ditto’s allure and the bands catchy sound. These are sighs that lament how close this group and Ditto can come to being an artistic force to be reckoned with.
‘A Joyful Noise’ is an album you want to like and it shows that Beth is one of pop’s premier talents. ‘Melody Emergency’ is a funky mid-tempo, electro-pop track with a strong bass line. Unfortunately, the title is more literal than you might think, as the melody sits uncomfortably next to the beat. While it has a great feel the song goes nowhere. Things look up on ‘Perfect World’, a memorable song that is one of the best on the album. The beat, bass and melody lock nicely and the chorus is great too. The song ‘Get a Job’ opens with the acappella diss ‘I’d love to stay and party but I gotta go to work’. The electronic soundscapes used are interesting but the beat and melody are poor. Once ‘Move in the Right Direction’ hits, boredom should be setting in as everything begins to sound the same. The Euro dance inspiration on ‘Move in the Right Direction’ cannot hide bland lyrics and melodies. If the chords are sterile and lame then one cannot blame Beth too much for such occurrences.
‘Into the Wild’ has a cool keyboard lick and catchy chorus that makes you pay attention to the album, just as you were nodding off. The bridge veers off course and brings much-needed fresh air via trippy vocals and distorted guitars. ‘Get Lost’ has a great early 90s, house sound. ‘Horns’ is another missed opportunity, its seventies funk feel is let down by the vocal which should have been punchier and more lively.
What a hit and miss affair this album is. While it’s moody, funky and atmospheric it lacks vision and needed a bit more variety. Two or three more strong songs would have raised its esteem considerably. ‘A Joyful Noise’ is one of those albums that teeters on being very good but alas it was not to be. If only Ditto would sing the next Bond theme song and show us what she is really capable of.