"Our mission is to make you dance & if yr not gonna dance, just stay at home," the Gossip once posted on the K Records Web site. But even if the best introduction to the Portland, Ore., blues punks is through their notoriously sweat-inducing live shows, two left feet needn’t deter anyone from checking out the trio. With three albums, two EPs, one live record, and a handful of singles, split releases, and compilation tracks to the band’s name, there are plenty of ways for wallflowers to enjoy the Gossip in the privacy of their own homes. Try these career-spanning highlights — a greatest-hits mix that, even if public displays on the dance floor ain’t your thing, should get you busting moves in the bedroom mirror.
"WHERE THE GIRLS ARE," "SWING LOW," "BONES," THATS NOT WHAT I HEARD (KILL ROCK STARS, 2001)
After 2000’s promising self-titled debut on K Records, Thats Not What I Heard offered the first hint that the Gossip’s gutbucket blues were more than just a vehicle for Beth Ditto to wail about her unquenchable sexual desire. Sure, there’s plenty of that — "Where the Girls Are" and the gospel-queering "Swing Low" are irresistible testaments to graphic Sapphic expression — but it’s "Bones," the story of a woman who offs her abusive husband then hits the road, that best captures their explosive energy.
"I WANT IT (TO WRITE)," FLYING SIDEKICK: HOME ALIVE II (BROKEN REKIDS, 2001)
"Put your hand up my skirt! Push it in, pull it out, make it hurt!" Ditto shouts. It’s the relentless hand claps — as subtle as a barrage of open-handed bitch slaps — and Gories-ripped riffs that truly turn this ode to, uh, digital love into their filthiest romp. Talk to the hand, girl!
"(TAKE BACK) THE REVOLUTION," ARKANSAS HEAT EP (KILL ROCK STARS, 2002)
With references to women workin’ hard for the money — too hard for too little, that is — and small towns full of even smaller minds, this rallying cry sets the Gossip’s slow-burning political fury ablaze. On "(Take Back) the Revolution," Ditto demands an overhaul in how people think about class, gender, and body image. "All you do is criticize my body, my hair, or the clothes I wear," she hollers at the haters. Certainly for many "kids stuck in a shitty small town," to whom Arkansas Heat is dedicated, it provides much-needed hope.
"CONFESS," "FIRE/SIGN," MOVEMENT (KILL ROCK STARS, 2003)
Movement‘s title doesn’t refer to artistic growth — the band’s second album is essentially more of the same. But frantic, frug-worthy stompers like "Confess" prove that’s certainly not a bad thing. Then there’s the raucous "Fire/Sign," which comes off like Ditto’s ominous, don’t-go-there warning to a gay friend not to be wasting time on undeserving dudes. "Now Mary, what are you thinking?" she tsk-tsks, assuming her role as rock’s fag-haggiest soul mama.
•<\!s><\i>"SNAKE APPEAL," "NIGHT SCHOOL" 7-INCH (KILL ROCK STARS, 2003)
•<\!s><\i>"SLEEPERS," REAL DAMAGE EP (DIM MAK, 2005)
These little-heard gems suggest that, like her band’s deceptively simple music, sometimes less can be best when it comes to Ditto’s voice. "Do you understand what a mess you’re making?" she calmly asks her thoughtless lover on the girl group–<\d>inspired "Snake Appeal," letting the subtle, oh-no-you-didn’t tone in her voice provide a bigger eff-you than any bloozy bombast ever could.
"STANDING IN THE WAY OF CONTROL (LE TIGRE REMIX)," "STANDING IN THE WAY OF CONTROL" 12-INCH (KILL ROCK STARS, 2005)
Considering the dramatic depth of Ditto’s voice has always rivaled that of today’s finest dance divas, it’s surprising that it took the Gossip so long to get their asses to the discotheque. If only they’d do it more often: This Le Tigre remix upgrades an already superb dance-punk track into the sort of deeply uplifting anthem for which shedding your inhibitions — along with some serious blood, sweat, and tears — under the mirror ball is made. Now you too can dance — for inspiration.