Beth Ditto has always been a queen to me, a trailblazing inspiration in music, fashion and life. It’s amazing to have her back and now standing solo with her debut album Fake Sugar.
The lead single Fire is bluesy, rocky and announces that this is not going to be a quiet return. When she sings get up if you want my love you feel yourself doing exactly what she says, all ready to dive into the crowd and worship at her feet. And she still doesn’t care what you think about her – Bless my soul/ that’s the way it is. I loved the punk swagger of Gossip and while this is a different sound there is still so much energy and passion in her music.
In and Out shows off the vocal talent which has always been Beth’s strength. This is a love story, but a realistic one – sometimes love fluctuates. This seems like a marriage song really – you work at something for someone because heaven wasn’t built in a day.
The title track Fake Sugar has a more electronic sound to it, and I like the way the layered beats complement her vocals. You can see these modern influences throughout the album’s sound, like on Go Baby Go and Oh La La moving away from the punkier work of her past but not quite as dance-orientated as her previous E.P.
We Could Run is the best song on the album, mixing a kind of eighties driving rock sound with more modern dance beat. The line We could always play it safe, but that’s no fun perfectly sums up her whole approach to music, maybe even life. When Beth roars into the chorus it’s actually stunning to hear what her voice can do.
Love in Real Life has a real emotional punch. You can hear the maturity and acceptance of the beauty of loving someone, despite the difficulties sometimes in a long term relationship. There’s vulnerability to the final track Clouds as well. She sings about The kind of quiet that hurts, and you feel it here in this track.
This album maybe doesn’t quite have the stand out banger needed to make her a pop star again and I do kind of miss the politically charged element of some of Gossip’s work but that doesn’t diminish the achievement of this album. Fake Sugar is the real sweet deal.