Standing in the Way of Control
(Kill Rock Stars)
Record Review by Karen A. Mann
Those who bitched about The Gossip’s lo-fi garage blues being a little too lo-fi should be impressed with Standing in the Way of Control. The fourth full-length CD by this Arkansas-bred, now Portland-based band is cleaner sounding, instrumentally tighter and a lot dance-punkier than the group’s previous disheveled Delta Blues output. And that’s a good thing. They have lost a lot of their dirty edge in the process, but by moving away from the Delta and more toward Motown, they’ve taken a big step in distinguishing themselves from the other guitar-and-drums rockers (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, White Stripes) to whom they’re constantly compared.
The band has matured in just about every conceivable way. Brace Paine’s guitar playing has become more consistent, and his riffs have become more catchy, though he still could benefit from being introduced to a tuner. The slow, girl group-like “Coal to Diamonds,” one of the best songs on the CD, suddenly turns unlistenable when his out-of-tune guitar clashes with singer Beth Ditto’s breathy “oooooh” midway through the song. New drummer Hannah Blilie is a genius addition, if for no other reason than the cowbell that propels “Listen Up!” Her impeccable sense of dance rhythms, and a knowledge of when to beat the hell out of the drums and when to hold back, is a prime reason why the band sounds so much more mature.
The fact remains, though, that without Ditto amazing voice, this band would be nothing. Ditto can turn on a dime from a Big Mama Thornton-style howl to a Diana Ross-like sigh. “Yr Mangled Heart” and “Keeping You Alive” showcase her at her strutting best, but the torchy, emotion-laden “Dark Lines” -- particularly when she moans, “why me?” -- is where she really shines.
More by this writer:
Lightning Bolt - Hypermagic Mountain
The Rosebuds - Birds Make Good Neighbors
The Hellacopters - Rock & Roll Is Dead