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Pure, relentless Ditto. And you can only bare so much of it.

Not many of us can sing like Beth Ditto. There’s power, there’s soul, there’s an almost unique energy to the ways she belts out her lyrics. The Gossip, you would assume, would be very little without her. But the shadowed-out members require a little more of a say from now on. At not one point during ‘Music For Men’ does Ditto take a step back, point towards her cronies in the background and divert the limelight onto them. There’s no instrumental section, just pure, relentless Ditto. And you can only bare so much of it.

Of course the big voice and the big mouth behind the scenes is the core selling point of ‘Music For Men’. It’s a record that prides itself on simplicity, a streamlined pop sound that hasn’t dramatically altered from the band’s previous record. And of course the problem with their last three records was how Ditto becomes more and more active and irrational, singing becoming shouting, your tolerance slowly losing grip. Nothing’s changed. In fact you sense a complete awareness of how this record will certify the sudden, Soulwax-assisted success gained three years back. Therefore any less of Ditto would have been commercial suicide.

But don’t go thinking this album’s bogged down by one problem, a problem that’s also its very strength. Once accustomed to each and every melody on ‘Music For Men’, there it exposes its relative lack of variety, experimentation and imagination. The basic piano section on ‘Love Long Distance’ is nothing more than dreadful and it’s the only addition to their sound from previous work. The rest is a predictable regurgitating of ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’, particularly so in ‘Heavy Cross’ which happens to be the album’s stand-out. With one or two exceptions, in-and-out bass lines dominate the bulk of the record, with scratchy, sporadically placed, scratchy guitar rhythms adding little more than a different frequency. And the vocal melodies of Ditto’s seem at times so simple that they border on mimicking a nursery rhyme or the hokey-cokey (‘Men In Love’ especially). ‘Music For Men’, it is not.

The most upsetting part of it all was that you knew exactly how this record was going to be inclined before you even knew of its presence. The band’s sound prides itself on the blues and soul, but soul is nowhere to be seen. Instead you find yourself at loss of identifying with anything on the twelve tracks. But were you ever going to identify with a former-squirrel-eating, bubbly fashionista that appeared naked on the front cover of NME? You know where her priorities lie. Out with the conception and in with the cash.

Tags: Gossip, Reviews, Album Reviews

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