When the members of the Gossip first started out, their music carried a strong garage-punk influence, lo-fi guitars and a lot of howling by vocalist Beth Ditto. The band’s third proper album features the same thumping rock as its previous releases, and again it’s punctuated by Ditto’s bluesy wailing about sleepless nights and lost love. But the members have developed their sound over time, and Standing in the Way of Control finds them affecting a more post-punk white-girl funk mood than before. Think Au Pairs or Delta 5, but filtered through Bikini Kill and the Rapture.
The title track is easily the best track here. It’s a stomping anthem about living life the way you want, even if your back is against the wall, and it’s ruthlessly pounded out by new drummer Hannah Billie (formerly of Chromatics). Brace Paine’s guitar lines are slightly reminiscent of “Metal Gods” by fellow Portlanders Glass Candy, but where Glass Candy seems shrouded in darkness and mystery (what the hell is a metal god anyway?), the Gossip is nothing but bright colors, dance parties and clear messages. “It’s part not giving in/ Part trusting your friends/ You do it all again and I’m not lying,” shouts Ditto in this song, which is like a commercial for the teenage-punk ideology of making a family out of your friends and existing however you see fit. Still — and this is what’s great about the Gossip — “Standing in the Way of Control” never gets cheesy. The members never cross that line into irony or cheekiness, because not only do they believe everything their music suggests, but it’s also been the blueprint for their lives.
It’s invigorating to see a band taking something from its predecessors but not copying them directly. Instead of ripping off the hundred or so Kill Rock Stars riot grrrl bands that came before them, the members of the Gossip are well aware that they are from the time after. And they use it to their advantage, fleshing out each song with all kinds of influences — blues, garage, post-punk, girl groups — and making something exceptional.