The sixth album from Gossip is a polished piece. It’s still the same powerhouse we’re used to, but they’ve moved a long way from the rough and angry blues first seen in their self-titled 1999 EP.
A Joyful Noise continues the movement towards a smoothness that was evident in Music for Men. There’s a sense of continuity here – opening track Melody Emergency and lead single Perfect World could have easily come off Music.
There are the tracks composed to highlight Beth Ditto’s impressive voice, such as Involved. With its pared-back use of drum and keyboard, the focus is on Ditto’s voice, especially in the chorus where her range is used to full effect and her trademark tremolo is employed.
If Music for Men was about moving from a rock to a pop-rock sound, then A Joyful Noise is moving into disco territory. There’s a strong use of synths and electronic effects in the instrumentation. This can be seen in the porno-esque guitars, rock-y drums and synthed arpeggios in I Won’t Play – a disco track with a strong rock edge.
Into the Wild is another great example – with its plucked bassline, heavy drums and careful employment of synth and guitar in the chorus and bridge. Here, Ditto is the last girl on the dance floor, swaying to the music and oohing her way through heartbreak.
Move in the Right Direction is the happy track (if anything could be said to be truly happy on a Gossip album). With its powerful synths and drums tempered by Ditto’s voice – except at the chorus, where the synths slide to great effect – it’s the one that will get stuck in your mind long after. It’s no wonder it was chosen for the second single, and the video is also well worth watching.
There’s a touch of Lily Allen’s Alfie in Get a Job, their anthemic slacker slapdown, which includes lines such as “What kind of life is this // when every day’s a weekend?” I can imagine a bunch of ‘disaffected yoof’ screaming the lines to each other at a club.
If disco-pop is their latest territory, then I feel like the biggest nod is to Cher. Casualties of War could be a Song for the Lonely, Gossip-style. And I’m hanging for someone to do the obvious Sonny and Cher mashup of The Beat Goes On with Horns. If the track teaches us anything, it’s that they know how to employ cowbell.
If a track can sum up this album, it’s final track Love in a Foreign Place: “I fell in love in a foreign place // i could stay forever // it’s my time // it’s now or never.” If the angry punk / bluegrass landscape is where Ditto et al grew up, then they’ve found the love by transporting it to this defiant disco-pop place.