That's Not What I Heard
Kill Rock Stars
By: Brooke McDermott
If you caught The Gossip’s opening act for indie darlings Sleater-Kinney last year, then, of course, you’ve been eagerly awaiting the band’s full-length debut. The big question is whether the lead singer’s hip-shaking, hand clapping, and crowd pleasing stage show can be captured on something so impersonal as a compact disc? The answer is a resounding yes. That much personality can't help but ooze out of your speakers. Fourteen tracks in twenty-four minutes are all you need to prove it, too.
Where The Gossip’s onstage antics intrigue, the album's nuances draw you into the depths of the band, focusing on the distinct talents of each member; Mamma’s dark lyrics of a young woman taking life’s punches as they come (but only if she can land a few herself), Kathi’s steady, rockin’ drum beats, and Nathan’s old school greaser guitar riffs add up to an unique mix of swaggering rock and roll. If you’ve never heard of these indie rock freshmen, That’s Not What I Heard is an orientation you don’t want to miss.
This two year old Seattle-based trio is obviously influenced by a wide range of music from gospel and soul to dirty punk and bluesy rock and roll. The fierce combination of reverb-heavy guitar, naked drums and husky vocals mold the band’s modern, rowdy, bluesy-punk sound. “Bones” could be an updated albeit abbreviated version of The Doors' classic “Roadhouse Blues” but with a Stooges-style punk rock twist.
Beth- or "Mamma" as she calls herself- invites you into her dysfunctional family storybook with That’s Not What I Heard. Born and raised in Arkansas, she boasts that there “ain’t no woman like a Southern girl.” Her lyrics, exploding from her guttural vocal chords, explore young lust with poise and illustrate that this dominant Mamma is ashamed of nothing.
Emotionally, Mamma’s songs run the gamut of topics from seduction (“Bring It On”) to love (“Where the Girls Are”) and then, gracefully, on to loneliness (“Heartbeats”). At a world-weary 19 years old, she belts out “why do you wanna hurt me, I ain’t done nothing wrong?” on “Sweet Baby” with unaffected ferocity, showcasing her innocence. Her act is endearing as she attempts to imbue the listener with her hard knock life lessons. She's obviously too young to be so preachy, but that doesn't hinder her confidence as a songwriter in any way. Some of the naivete strips away, though, when she demands things like “baby, give me what I need”- you don't doubt for a second that she won't get it.
Mamma and her family will need to maintain that perfect balance of projected star quality and down home humility to carry them through their own national tour this year. The band definitely has to pull out all the stops to win over the crowds since it doesn't have the benefit of a cushy opening slot for Sleater-Kinney this time around. Beth's attitude is confident, though: “Say it loud, say it clear, Mamma’s home, Mamma’s here!” The Gossip has exploded onto the scene and with a debut album like That’s Not What I Heard,” it's not likely to be forgotten any time soon.