“Music for Men” the fourth album (and major label debut) from disco-rock trio Gossip, is being hyped as the album that might garner the group a widespread following. But it’s hard to imagine portly frontwoman Beth Ditto and her bandmates — whom she recently described as coming from a punk scene of “striking vegan radicals” — as ever being part of the mainstream. And that’s not a bad thing.

For “Music for Men” which has an official release date of October 6 but was made available digitally and overseas earlier this year, Ditto, guitarist Brace Paine and drummer Hannah Blilie enlisted legendary producer Rick Rubin (incidentally, they’ve also dropped the “The” from their name). The polished result is a non-stop dance party, a delirious fusion of blues, punk and disco elements.

Genre: Indie rock
Label: Columbia
[rating:3/4]

On much of the album, synthesizers and keyboards outnumber guitars. The band shamelessly draws from artists like Blondie and Donna Summer — and makes it work. Fans of (The) Gossip’s breakout album, 2006’s “Standing in the Way of Control” will salivate over first single “Heavy Cross” undeniably the album’s catchiest, strongest track, anchored by radiant palm-muted guitar work courtesy of Paine.

Charmingly, Ditto’s self-confidence matches her girth, and the sultry opening track, “Dimestore Diamond” contains a favorite metaphor of hers, painting a portrait of the titular heroine’s transformation from coal to diamond; she dons low-cut sweaters, short skirts and a “homemade haircut” but still “shines like the real thing.”

But Ditto also adopts a rarely-seen confessional tone on many songs, particularly on songs like “For Keeps” and “Love Long Distance.” It’s a bit disarming to hear Ditto, a native Arkansan who is perhaps most known as an outspoken champion of feminism and LGBT rights, sing lovesick lines like “I call your number twice, but it rang and rang / Against my best friend’s advice, I should be ashamed.”

Some might view the album’s tongue-in-cheek title and gender-bending artwork in the liner notes as a political statement on their own, but Ditto also scratches the surface of gender politics on the punkish “8th Wonder” referencing a time “before girls knew they weren’t pretty yet “¦ before boys knew they weren’t tough enough.”

The sassy singer also returns to her grassroots activist roots on the punchy “Pop Goes the World” promising, “We’ll start a demonstration / Or we’ll create a scene / Make noise from our frustration.” It’s a relief to know that Gossip haven’t lost sight of their politics in the pursuit of mass appeal.

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