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Album review: The Gossip's 'Music for Men'

October 6, 2009 |  5:44 pm
This album review originally appeared on the Chicago Tribune's Turn It Up blog.

Gossip Beth Ditto, the singer in this Portland, Ore.-via-Arkansas trio, has become a celebrity overseas because of her anti-diva attitude, robust physique and gutsy voice. Her outspoken views on feminism and gay rights, combined with her band's exuberant dance-punk, have turned her into an unlikely star.

After three independent albums and a breakout hit, the 2006 single "Standing in the Way of Control," she and bandmates Brace Paine (guitar) and Hannah Blilie (drums) make their major-label debut, "Music for Men," with producer-to-the-icons Rick Rubin ensuring everything is appropriately polished for a big mainstream roll-out.

The sound is a bouncy mix of new-wave guitars and disco beats, hearkening back to the early '80s heyday of Romeo Void, the B-52s and Gang of Four. Though Rubin certainly has made the band crisper than ever, the smoothness doesn't suit Ditto.

She has a gritty voice big enough to knock down walls, but on "Music for Men" she sounds muted, even as she curses her romantic travails. The singer cuts loose only as "8th Wonder" winds down, building to the kind of fury that causes one to wonder what this album could've been with less polish and a lot more Ditto, unfiltered.

--Greg Kot

Gossip
"Music for Men"
(Columbia)
Two stars

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