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Riot grrrl trailblazers like Bikini Kill were always about up-against-your-grill female empowerment. Though clearly influenced by the lyrics of BK singer Kathleen Hanna, and the howitzer- exploding instrumentation of gender-busting power-trio Sleater-Kinney, the Gossip--fronted by the seductively vicious hellcat Beth Ditto (who owes her vocal prowess more to Aretha Franklin than Hanna)--exude more guttural, far less political soul enforcement and sexual TNT than both those revered acts.

Ultimately, the Gossip is South Bronx minimalist funk-punk group ESG reincarnated 25 years later as two hip white chicks (Ditto and newly recruited powerhouse drummer Hannah Blilie) and a slashing, barely noticeable male guitarist/bassist (the underappreciated Brace Paine) that whip up a simplistic dance-punk furor with composite songwriting and cocky self-assuredness not equaled since the female-fronted BellRays burst upon the scene a decade ago. The Gossip blows the doors off today's unwitting rivals with unmatched vocal intensity and flawless, drop-of-the-dime instrumental versatility and dynamism that would peel paint off a 1963 Ford Thunderbird from 50 paces.

Standout tracks include the opening salvo "Fire With Fire"--where Ditto's fire-and-brimstone caterwauling complements a riff-chunky, hip-shakin' groove that intimidates and undulates with the bacon-fat gluttony of Andre Williams preparing his ritual R&B slop fest--and the defiantly anthem-like title cut where sturdy production from Guy Picciotto (Fugazi) exposes her jagged and gut-bluesy voice, keeping the rough edges as a reminder that, soulful or not, this band kicks ass first and asks questions later.

More by Ron Bally

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