In principle, I'm no great fan of the live album, but the Arkansas-born/Olympia-based Gossip is one band where a live album not only makes sense, it even makes sense as a major-label debut presumably meant to introduce the band to a larger audience.
Iconic producer Rick Rubin signed this three-person/two-instrument band to Columbia after they'd spent close to a decade rising through the ranks of the punk bands affiliated with the Pacific Northwest indie label Kill Rock Stars. This unadorned live set serves to establish the authentic power of the three sounds that comprise this very simple band: the disco-worthy rhythmic consistency of drummer Hannah Blilie's backbeat, guitarist Brace Paine's nimble juke-signifying riffage, and singer Beth Ditto's powerhouse punk-gospel vocals.
Seven of 13 tracks come from the band's last full-length studio album, Standing in the Way of Control, dipping back to their 2000 debut That's Not What I Heard for "Swing Low," which Ditto intros with a lusty shout of "This is for the dykes!" Highlights include intense readings of some of their most passionate, empathetic anthems: "Yr Mangled Heart" (rallying cry: "I don't want the world/I only want what I deserve"), "Keeping You Alive," and "Standing in the Way of Control." The way the band's outcast sympathies and room-rattling party rock connects to an audience is righteously displayed on the DVD companion disc.
The Gossip's populist personality is further captured by the album's two covers: Wham!'s 1984 ballad "Careless Whisper" and Aaliyah & Timbaland's '90s R&B classic "Are You That Somebody?" With this band, indie/punk and chart pop blend without irony. Unlike so many times when bands of this ilk cover pop hits, there is no self-consciousness or cuteness here. This is merely a band playing songs they love. And if "Careless Whisper" doesn't work as anything more than a gesture, the band's reading of "Are You That Somebody?" is worthy of the towering original. You scoff at the notion that mysterious, deep soul could debut on the Dr. Doolittle soundtrack? The Gossip know better and make the case. — Chris Herrington