Feminist alt-rockers Gossip go live in the first major-label release, Live In Liverpool. The Arkansas-born three-piece is most associated with its former label, Kill Rock Stars, and such feminist indie-rock acts as Sleater-Kinney and Le Tigre. But, while they’re still based out of Portland, Oregon, they’ve moved on to Sony/BMG’s new ‘Music With a Twist’ subsidiary, which focuses on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual acts. With self-professed lesbian Beth Ditto providing an outsized frontwoman, it’s a natural choice to open up the new imprint, and with Live In Liverpool CD/DVD, Music With a Twist helps bring Gossip’s discography to a wider audience.
Starting off on a new label with a live record is an unusual choice, considering that Gossip played almost all material previously released on Kill Rock Stars. But this allows Music With a Twist to sort of ‘lay claim’ to Gossip’s musical heritage, without going the costly route of buying up the rights to all the old records. And it allows the imprint to give off a strong first impression. For Gossip, while a live record isn’t a new thing (2003’s Undead in NYC), the accompanying DVD shows what extra a major label can do.
Over half the pieces on Liverpool come from Gossip’s last full-length, 2006’s Standing in the Way of Control, starting with the appropriate opener, “Eyes Open”. “Eyes” is rockin’ and aggressive without being overbearing, playing faster than on Standing. It’s followed by another Standing track, “Yr Mangled Heart”, which is harder and heavier than on recording, especially in the bass, and just way better live.
Gossip slips a bit following that strong start with the short and somewhat forgettable “Swing Low” (the oldest track, from 2001’s Kill Rock Stars debut, That’s Not What I Heard) and an admittedly energetic version of the lame “Fire/Sign” (from 2003’s in-between LP, Movement). But in between is the almost-hip-hop “Are You That Somebody?” (from their last Kill Rock Stars release, 2006’s GSSP RMX EP), with Bruce Paine switching from guitar to bass, and drummer Hannah Billie going clickety-clack with her sticks.
The ‘live’ element really starts to factor in with “Coal To Diamonds”, the first of a Standing triptych. The crowd sing-along gives it an extra oomph, and the same is true for the aggressive hooks of “Jealous Girls” and catchy garage-guitars of “Keeping You Alive”. But the pinnacle of the record has to be the even catchier garage-guitars of Movement’s “Don’t Make Waves”, which are loads of fun, and also bopping. Gossip go higher on the guitar, almost rockabilly, with Movement’s “Yesterday’s News”, and the crowd factors in hugely with Standing’s title track and “Listen Up”. The former goes big and rocking, epic, while the latter has a pressing dance beat.
Gossip playing "Standing in the Way of Control" live @ Carling Academy, Liverpool, U.K.:
Live In Liverpool also features one bonus track at the end, the previously-unreleased “Careless Whisper”, whose up tempo dance beat works well out of “Listen”. There’s also the DVD of the performance, where you can see Ditto in all her glory (and the silver, spangle-y, Rick James-esque wig she sports for the first half). One also notices that the order of songs on the album is not the same order they were actually played, rearranged for some reason. However, the most surprising aspect is the fan base – not that they’re mostly female (though the gender skew ain’t at Lilith Fair-levels), but how young they are. Riot grrl-power lives on…
Like any live record, Live In Liverpool lives and dies on its band’s live presence; luckily, Gossip is a band that can carry a live record. Really more than anything an introduction to Gossip (and Music With a Twist) to those who don’t know them, Liverpool makes a good first impression.