So far, 2006 has been a year mostly in love with the past. Major buzz bands such as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are still in the process of attempting to update the wiry post-punk and early college rock of the 1970s and '80s, and indie kids all over the world have eaten this trend up with a silver spoon. Yet, oddly, one of the best albums of this year, The Gossip's Standing in the Way of Control, has been ignored amidst all the uneasy semi-nostalgia. Perhaps it's because this record's major influences are not the angular, permanently trendy paranoia of the early Talking Heads, but disco dance grooves which have more in common with sequin-spangled divas like Gloria Gaynor. Or maybe it's because the vast majority of indie kids are afraid to shake their asses to anyone but Le Tigre. Maybe they're just afraid of an unironic love of disco. Whatever the case, though, Standing in the Way of Control definitely needs some more loving.
The Gossip's latest release begins with the fiery, cymbal-driven "Fire with Fire," which successfully synthesizes Detroit-style blues rock and the glitter of Gaynor. And even after that encouraging opener, they don't slow down, but continue to build even more dance floor tension with the title track. The listener doesn't get to take a breather until the excellent ballad "Coal to Diamonds," a showcase for the fabulous vocals of Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto. Ditto sings every song as if she's competing with the Reigning Sound's Greg Cartwright to see who can sing with more volume and soul. In fact, while it's almost impossible to not want to dance to the uptempo songs, it's the slower numbers which highlight the talented Ditto that make Standing in the Way of Control so extraordinary. "Listen Up!" alone, where Ditto wails as if she were Donna Summer's young, white Arkansas daughter, makes this album a terrific accomplishment.
In fact, the only problem this reviewer can find with Standing in the Way of Control is that it clocks in at only 35 minutes. So while the songs never get tiresome (as some dance and disco songs do after repeated listens), such a brief taste can leave a now-devoted Gossip fan thirsty for both a concert and another album as soon as possible.
Reviewed by Megan Giddings