Working with master minimalist Rick Rubin, Gossip have lost more than the "The" from their name, as they've pared down their sound while amping up the pop and R&B-isms of their earlier work in this clear and earnest bid for the big kahuna. The problem? Well, picture your favorite '70s disco classic. Now take that eight-person band and remove everyone but the guitarist and the drummer, adding only the occasional keyboardist and bassist. Remove the string sections and all the other studio indulgences and then take those vocals and replace them with a single guide take — and now try pumping that thing out on the floor.
You'd probably start thinking, as you attempted to shake it without breaking it, "Wow, this tune is really repetitive and pointless, and the lyrics are really lame." That's pretty much what it's like attempting to make it across the disco Sahara of, say, Music for Men's "Love Long Distance." It's a shame, because the record has its share of jagged rocking, like the tense floor-tom banging of "2012" and the "Edge of Seventeen"–isms of lead single "Heavy Cross."
In the end, the record seems an ascetic exercise, complete with drumstick count-ins. As Beth Ditto sings in said lead single, "We can play it safe or play it cool." If only the band and Rubin had sought out a third option.