Listening to Gospel Gossip is like finding a 20 in the wash. Actually, scratch that – it’s like finding a kilo of Columbian non-dairy creamer in the wash. These kids just showed up out of nowhere and dropped a brilliant debut album in my lap. (Specifically, this “nowhere” is called Northfield, Minn.)
The two or three critics who’ve even bothered to review “Sing Into My Mouth” have usually pigeonholed this three-piece as a run-of-the-mill shoegazers and called it a day, but there’s more to Gospel Gossip than the commonplace “wall of sound.” Yes, they do indeed have a Roland RE-150 Space Echo making the songs all angsty and dissonant (to use my favorite clichés), but the record just has too much else going on to be classified so bluntly. Remember the entomology of shoegaze: a term developed from band members’ stoic delivery, standing frozen in place, eyes locked on one’s own pigeon-toed chucks, concentrating only on the droning, endless waves of malcontent and noise pouring from one’s own six-string. This image doesn’t fit Gospel Gossip for me.
I can’t imagine anyone in the band standing still for up-tempo, sex-stained numbers like “Revolutions in Physics” or “Mt. Virgil.” These are songs that pulse with such energy that I instead picture the band hopping around the stage like coked-out, rabid jackrabbits, knocking over mic-stands, slipping on vomit and generally doing the opposite of standing still, especially with lead Sarah Nienaber’s voice veering closer to The Stooges’ Iggy Pop than My Bloody Valentine’s Belinda Butcher. Actually, Nienaber sounds a lot more like Sue Tompkins from Life Without Buildings, but no one knows who she is so I’ll hold my tongue. (As long as I’m off topic, I’ll mention that Sarah looks frighteningly like an 11-year-old version of our stacks manager’s girlfriend.)
Anyway . I love her voice. Her delivery is beautifully varied, from a lullaby sing-song to raging-alcoholic shrieking, which is useful for the range of “Sing Into My Mouth.” “Shadows are Bent” uses such a catchy, happy melody you might call it neo-twee (if you were a pretentious asshole like me, anyway). The deliberately epic “Lucky Lemmings” is straight-up post-rock goodness with a good two minutes of teasing, a five-minute plateau and a solid minute-long climax. Two songs, “Maybe” and “Next,” approximate the lo-fi sound of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone of all things (but less depressing).
In fact, the urge to diversify might be its one weak point, as a few songs are seemingly throwaways. As near as I can work out, they were just dicking around with the electronics trying to make neat sounds. I guess this practice is actually the makeup of its own genre, but, well, whatever.
Right now, the band’s too small to make it out to the West Coast, but with a release this good, their launch into the weird world of the “indie-famous” isn’t impossible, and my fearless prediction of the day is that we’ll be seeing a lot more of these Minnesotans.
Jesse Bo Widmark is an architectural engineering senior and a business director for KCPR, San Luis Obispo, 91.3 FM.