Gossip - Listen Up - Singles - Reviews - Soundblab

Gossip - Listen Up

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

Having finally punched their way into public consciousness (in the UK at least) with the re-release and subsequent ubiquity of 'Standing in the Way of Control', Gossip elected to follow it up with this gritty, understated gem which got slightly overlooked since most people were still busy grooving away to 'Standing…'. Many people still have trouble getting passed that song, and it's long become obvious that 'Standing…' is one of those anthems which will always hang around the neck of its author like the proverbial big dead bird. But for those paying attention, 'Listen Up!' could hold it's own against its blustery big sister. Like a downbeat cousin of The White Stripes' 'Seven Nation Army', it's built around a muted, tense blues riff and concerns Beth Ditto's observations on back-stabbers, bitches and spongers.

Gossip's oft-mentioned soul leanings are more pronounced than ever here, shining through the DIY punk production. For a start, the song's lyrics revive a long-standing soul music trope stretching all the way back to The O'Jays' 1972 hit 'Back Stabbers'. That song was ostensibly about a man who can't trust his friends around his girl, but it's angst connected with black audiences at a time when concern over the failings of the civil rights movement was rife, in much the same was as Martha and the Vandellas' 'Dancing in the Street' had given the civil rights movement a marching anthem during better times. Considering they had just become a cause célèbre for a song decrying the lack of progress on gay marriage rights in the US, it's not stretching things to assume Ditto and co were aware of the piece of pop history they were invoking.

'Listen Up!' seethes with similar mistrust and paranoia: "They'll talk about you at a drop of a hat/ Lie about it to your face when they're caught," sings Ditto, while drawing parallels between the haters in her life and playground bullies. The song's slow-burning dynamic also gives Ditto plenty of room to deliver an outstanding soul performance, avoiding the shrillness she sometimes resorts to on her band's more full-throttle tunes. Here, the band work the tension in the locked groove for all it's worth, stringing out the atmosphere of simmering menace in the verse until it erupts into a thrilling but brief blast of violent noise in the choruses. This happens twice, and then it's all over. Like a playground spat, the display is explosive but over in the blink of an eye.

Richard Morris

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