Against 2006’s backdrop of identikit indie bands, armed with super-tight jeans and frail-framed jangles about girls that are “sooooooo naïve,” Gossip stood out and proud like a sore, and very pissed off thumb. By title alone, ‘Standing in the Way of Control’ deliberately makes itself an annoyance and an obstacle. Plonking itself bolt upright and right in the way, and forcing everyone to physically manoeuvre around it’s fast-punching presence, Gossips’ third wields the body as a weapon. It’s a gargantuan record crammed with juggernaut Blues riffs that can’t be pinned down; tenacious dance beats that flicker and frenzy their way to near-oblivion.
Written as an almighty fuck you directed at the U.S. Government’s attempts to make same-sex marriage illegal, ‘Standing in the Way of Control’s title track bursts with anger and unconstrained rage, but at the same time, throws its head back to party. “Nobody in the States was that surprised or shocked by what Bush did, but it made everyone I know feel helpless and cheated,” Ditto said at the time. Sweating glitter, and screaming with gaudiness, this record is unapologetically different, and camper than a Butlins themed cabaret performance at G-A-Y late. When it came to small-town noughties teens whose only knowledge of queer culture came from token storylines on EastEnders, Gossip busted off the hinges and flung open the door to an entire new world, containing Le Tigre, Hunx and His Punx, Peaches, Tribe 8, and an entire treasure trove of bold, brash badasses who couldn’t be bothered with conforming.
“Heavy makeup doesn’t cover up the many sleepless nights I can’t hide,” lulls Beth Ditto at her gentlest on ‘Dark Lines,’ a chiming, smokey and Southern-soul tinged track where covering up weakness and blending in becomes exhausting. Elsewhere, there’s the gritty image of fists painstakingly performing their own chemistry with carbon; slowly grinding burnt out coal into gleaming, crystal clear diamonds. “I thought about it ‘til my head hurt,” sings Ditto, sad, reflective restrained “I thought about it but it only made things worse.” For every rallying battle-cry – the roaring confrontation that is ‘Standing in the Way of Control,’ the searing empowerment of ‘Fire with Fire’ – this record also shows the flip-side. ‘Yr Mangled Heart,’ even declares “I can’t take it no more”. Though it’s frequently angry, triumphant, and pissed-off ‘Standing in the Way of Control’ is also strays towards the verge of buckling and giving up, too. Beth Ditto tells you that it’s ok to be totally tired of fighting against a flawed, difficult world, too.
Because, of course, Gossip wouldn’t be Gossip without Beth Ditto. The band’s frontwoman infamously raised eyebrows the same year that Gossip’s ‘Standing in the Way of Control’ came out, by claiming that as a child, she used to fry squirrels, and eat them. The headlines roared with puffed-up anger – smugly painting Ditto as cultureless Southern freak, and neglecting to mention she actually ended up eating fluffy rodents in the first place because her family was so poor. Column-penners everywhere queued around the block to give their two-cents on something else that was really none of their business anyway; Ditto’s frequent affinity, and proudness, when it came to being naked. Meanwhile. Beth Ditto apologised for nothing, and gave no shits.
Joyful to be different, ecstatic to stand out, and a self-proclaimed “fat, feminist lesbian from Arkansas,” Ditto fronted national magazines, and soundtracked primetime television, while openly spitting venom at mainstream pop’s superficial, exploitative flirtations with gay culture (she once rather brilliantly wrote Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’ off as a “boner dyke anthem for straight girls”). Taking on the spirit of Kurt Cobain’s unabashed dress-wearing, Kathleen Hanna’s rrriot of unshaved pits, and the anger of a thousand furious punks, political, non-conforming badasses like Beth Ditto, and bands like Gossip, are rare, and to be celebrated.
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