The Gossip - Music for Men (4 stars)

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The Gossip - Music for Men

The Gossip’s extravagant firebrand Beth Ditto has bagged herself stardom in bountiful guises: disco-blues diva, brawling fashionista, feminist defender, media provocateur, political agitator — and, not least, the sexiest catsuit inhabitant since Barbarella.

Eliciting and furthering the Riot Grrrl doctrine, while sonically implicating Janis Joplin and PJ Harvey, Ditto’s towering persona and soulful vocalisms are riled by 21st Century contentions: body image, gender constraints, sexual oppression and American civil rights (as stridently exemplified on 2007’s Bush-bashing, same-sex marriage anthem, ‘Standing in the Way of Control’).

Yet most of all – lest we forget – Ditto can not half belt out a song. Music for Men, the Portland trio’s fourth long-player, sees the stunningly-lunged Ditto – robustly flanked by Brace Paine (bass, guitar, synth) and Hannah Blilie (drums) – once more straddle the canons of dance music, gospel, blues and rock.

Despite its much-touted counsel from legendary US producer Rick Rubin, Music for Men is no great departure from The Gossip’s previous albums. It is, however, a carnal riot of technicolour disco-punk (‘Heavy Cross’, ‘Men in Love’), parched guitar hoe-downs (‘Dimestore Diamond), churning synth balladry (‘Four Letter Word’), and funk-struck electro-pop (‘Pop Goes the World’).

Ditto bares her oral chops throughout and ensnares iconic props at every turn.

(Columbia)

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