Olympia, Wash.’s The Gossip initially emerged as part of the Ladyfest-bred post-punk wave (alongside bands like Erase Errata, the Need and others) at the turn of the century. But while that scene eventually petered out, The Gossip grew creatively with each new album, ratcheting its bluesy punk sound to jittery dance-funk rhythms. The band's third full-length, 2005’s Standing in the Way of Control, proved a commercial breakthrough, landed in the UK album charts and earned The Gossip a deal with Columbia’s new queer-oriented imprint, Music with a Twist. An electro-house remix of the title track by Soulwax ripped through indie-dance clubs around the States, turning lead singer Beth Ditto into a feminist sex symbol.
Recorded in July of last year, Live in Liverpool is an unpolished document of The Gossip’s raw power. Ditto wouldn’t earn any points with Simon Cowell; she sings with too much vibrato, and usually screams instead of hitting high notes. But her vocals teem with hard-earned soul, like Janis Joplin updated for the funk and hip-hop era. She, guitarist/bassist Brace Paine and drummer Hannah Blilie perform standout cuts such as “Yr Mangled Heart” and “Don’t Make Waves” with ragged enthusiasm. But there aren’t any new tracks, so there’s nothing to portend whether The Gossip’s major label debut, which arrives later this year, will sparkle with the right mix of combustible energy and classic songwriting. In a sense, Live in Liverpool is a snapshot of a band on the verge of galvanizing success or heartbreaking failure.