gossip real power album review 1

Real Power review | Gossip grow up and simmer down

After a 12-year hiatus, dance-punks Gossip have grown up - and so has their music, it's just a shame that means they're a bit less energised on new album Real Power.

Well, it’s official: Gossip are all grown up. The band who escaped their oppressive Arkansas as teenagers and moved to Olympia, Washington to become a dance-punk band are now adults that have been through divorce, death, and the division of Gossip. For 12 years, Gossip have been on hiatus, and now they’re signalling a more mature musical direction in a record that examines just where real power lies. 

Let’s put the first worry to bed: Beth Ditto’s powerhouse vocals have refused to subside, and thank fuck for that. Album opener ‘Act of God’ is a wailing, screaming cut that punches you right in the face; for all its lyricism about losing control and being unable to read peoples’ minds, the most powerful moment on that song rests in Ditto’s exasperated gargle. 

There are hints of Gossip’s former output in more upbeat songs like ‘Real Power’, the song that lies at the heart of the record’s turmoil. A chugging drum beat, buzzing synth and sharp guitars combine for an inescapably groovy call to arms as Ditto cries: “I want real power / Give me something real!”. Other callbacks to their past don’t work on quite the same level: ‘Give It Up For love’ is a serviceable track with similar elements that lacks the urgency and upheaval of ‘Real Power’. 

Gossip also have an unexpectedly tender side they’re hungry to express on ‘Real Power’. As lead single ‘Real Power’ pointed towards, when Ditto calls for a former lover not to take her home on ‘Crazy Again’, she does so with real exhaustion and longing in her voice. Where listeners expect Ditto to burst out into song on ‘Edge Of The Sun’, she coos instead. 

gossip real power album review

The change in pace has also resulted in a more country-tinged instrumental palette. Occasionally, this pays off in more evocative guitar tones; the searing, sunburnt riff in ‘Turn The Card Slowly’ is a perfect match to Ditto’s gradually pained realisation of a love lost. But this more gentle approach also results in songs that stall the album’s momentum. ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ jars the incredible rush of ‘Act of God’ and ‘Real Power’ with its plodding bass line, whilst the contemplative ‘Tough’ is a directionless track that fizzles out into forgettability. 

READ MORE: IDLES tell whynow about the basslines that made the band

‘Real Power’ is not the rambunctious, indie sleaze affair many might expect it to be. Yes, there are moments of chaos, but the real core of the album lies in its ability to surrender, both to the reality of loss and to a newer, more adult Gossip. But in doing so, Gossip have surrendered the fire and energy that made them so jaw-dropping in the first place.

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