Real Power exhibits the kind of genre-defying artistry which made Blondie and Talking Heads iconic, as Gossip seek to cement their name among the greats

Beth Ditto's Gossip make a welcome return after an extended hiatus

(Image: © Columbia)

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It’s been a long twelve years since we last heard from Gossip, who took an extended time out in 2012 because, according to bandleader and powerhouse vocalist Beth Ditto, they "needed space to deal with our shit". The Arkansas trio have undergone quite the musical transformation since they emerged in 1999 as a riotous garage-punk act, ushering in a new era of empowering post-riot grrrl rock for a new millennium. Then, from 2006’s Standing In The Way of Control, Gossip shifted into a more experimental kind of dance-rock, nudging their way onto the fringes of the mainstream, before leaning more fully into pop with 2012’s A Joyful Noise. 

This week, they make their very welcome comeback with Real Power, which sees them further pushing the boundaries of their style as they reunite with multi-genre super-producer Rick Rubin. Here, on their sixth studio album, Gossip add disco and funk influences into what was already a veritable melting pot of sounds, shored up by Ditto’s never-less-than-compelling vocals.

If you’ve ever wondered what it would sound like if Donna Summer fronted an indie band, then the genuinely fabulous title track Real Power is the anthem you’ve been waiting for. There’s a deep-rooted joy in the song’s funk-indebted guitars, bouncing keyboards and a cracking bass-line that simply insists you bop along. It’s the kind of genre-defying artistry which made Blondie and Talking Heads iconic, as Gossip seek to cement their own name among the  greats. These catchy, danceable hooks are scattered throughout the album, most effectively on the 80s pop homage Don’t Be Afraid and the funk undercurrent of Give It Up For Love.

Throughout Real Power, there are a few callbacks to Gossip’s rock roots. The droning intro to Tell Me Something brings some welcome weight to the second half of the album, before morphing into something more soulful, with moments that are surprisingly reminiscent of Diana Ross' I’m Coming Out. The melancholic, guitar-heavy Turn The Card Slowly also takes us back in time with some more traditional effects-laden indie sounds pairing nicely with Ditto’s inimitable voice.

But for most of the album, we see a softer side of the band, particularly in comparison to their bolder showstoppers. Peace and Quiet, as the name suggests, is a more gentle acoustic moment early in the album. Later, as the early energy of the the record tapers off, there's a gentle comedown with a double bill of the sweet and folksy Light It Up and the guitar-focused finale Tough.

While Real Power offers welcome insights into the artistry and inspirations driving the comeback of one of the most exciting bands of the last 25 years, it lacks some of the raw, unrestrained power that made us all sit up and take notice in the first place: a few more showstoppers like Real Power and Give It Up For Love would have been a welcome addition. But in trading thrilling indie chaos for a more polished, 'mature' sound, Real Power is still an important and intriguing step forward for Gossip’s artistic brilliance.

Freelance writer, Louder

In addition to contributing to Louder, Vicky writes for The Line of Best Fit, Gigwise, New Noise Magazine and more.