The Gossip

Finally, they can let That Song lie and concentrate on their scorching new material. Get Loaded In The Park, Clapham Common, London (August 24)

If there’s one thing you can’t accuse modern-day feminist firecracker, punk-blues polemicist and human dance dynamo Beth Ditto of, it’s clock-watching. Or is it? “How long until The Stooges come on?” gasps the pink-sequinned one, wiping her brow and casting an anxious eye backstage. Don’t worry, she’s not ducking out on us. At the end of her set Beth’s leading a parade to The Stooges’ stage, but for now, she’s got new songs to show us.

They’ve a lot to live up to: if The Automatic thought they had it bad with ‘Monster’, what of the Gossip and Standing In The Way Of All Our Other Songs? It’s been a while since we’ve seen them round these shores – last we heard they’d got a new bassist (Chris Sutton of Dub Narcotic Sound System) and were heading in an R&B direction. ‘Pop Goes The World’ is the Big Bang of the Gossip’s new era, and a disco-bassy beast it is too: more than R&B, it recalls the electro-sass of Soulwax. If you thought the Gossip were a formidable dance machine before, wait until you hear them now. Running into a fiery ‘Listen Up!’, Beth chants “Let’s keep the beat” and her amazing band more than oblige. Hannah’s spare, slinky drums and Nathan’s wound-tight, funky guitar sound even better backed up with Chris’ bass, especially on the Southern-gothic torch blues of ‘Coal To Diamonds’, which smoulders with added menace. Beth herself seems fired up with new enthusiasm, romping through the crowd to ‘Jealous Girls’’ ‘My Sharona’ guitar line and screaming like a toddler denied a Kinder Egg at Sainsbury’s.

The second newbie of the night, ‘8th Wonder’ (dedicated to Bikini Kill’s Tobi Vail), is old-school Gossip with a punk-funky Gang Of Four-style bassline. A ridiculously rousing ‘Yr Mangled Heart’ ends with a chant of “Hey sisters, you’re good enough” seguing into third new number ‘Heavy Cross’, which finds Beth working that rumoured Lauryn Hill influence. ‘Love Long Distance’ is slinky and lowdown, like Mary J Blige singing for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Finally, inevitably, comes the song everyone knows: Beth gives the millstone a clever spin, howling the words to ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ over the top before disappearing for her date with the Ig. Believe this rumour: the Gossip are even better than before.

Emily Mackay