Album Review: Beth Ditto – Fake Sugar

Some may remember the self proclaimed ‘fat, feminist lesbian from Arkansas’, also known as Beth Ditto for her 2010 hit Cruel Intentions.

She has written and performed a number of singles and EPs with indie rockers The Gossip since, as well as spending time in the studio with Simian Mobile Disco. Her outspoken nature is reflected in her musical output, which confidently switches from collaborations with Blondie one moment, to singing with drum and bass producer Netsky the next. It has been a few years since we last heard from Beth, and as her first debut album drops we are not sure what to expect…

Much of the projects content was initially destined for another album with her band The Gossip, but after a rough few years Ditto had a change of heart. Marriage trouble, loss and the break up of her former band have all contributed to the events leading up to this album’s creation. Working with Queens of The Stone Age bassist Michael Shuman, and R&B producer Jennifer Decliveo she aimed to add some southern rock flare to her second hand lyrics.

There is a distinctly 70’s theme throughout as Beth shares some of her rock influences, choosing to use scratchy vintage microphones on tracks like Fire where she howls “bless my soul, I can’t resist’. Elsewhere on Savoir Faire there are throwback Dire Straights-like guitar licks, and a solid drum track straight out of the 70’s (to match the album’s cover art).

Fake Sugar is Beth Ditto’s first album

Her voice appears to be completely untouched for the majority of the release, with a voice this good it would be a shame not to show it off as genuinely os possible. On In and Out Ditto nails the difficult vocal runs, but the lyrics and overall melody are lacking finesse. Fake Sugar also struggles to make the grade, after using some techno drums for the introduction, it fails to materialise into something strong enough for a title track. Choosing to use an unimaginative power ballad chord progression on We Could Run also backfires, resulting in a pretty dull Snow Patrol vs Coldplay hybrid. Love In Real Life is also in need of some spicing up, it’s Ditto’s Adele moment that she fails to pull off.

The album’s first home run comes from Ooh La La, with its dirty vocal, Beth’s amped-up attitude, and steady tom drums that Meg White would be proud of. Tastefully distorted guitar strings twist before the chorus explodes, “I get it from my mothers mother!”. She bellows “Ooh La La!” as the tracks draws to a close, if only more of the album could match this level of quality; her performance on Go Baby Go does manage to keep the energy levels up however.

Beth’s singing on Oh My God sounds familiar, and is reminiscent of Standing In The Way Of Control (her hugely successful single with former band The Gossip). More super slick production accompanies one of the album’s strongest pieces, with a crowd pleasing build-up and a chorus with enough impact to match. Do You Want Me To struts away with a similar swagger, featuring experimental sound design and spooky elements, easing in and out of a disco groove. It is another one of the releases more satisfying listens, and once you really sink your teeth in it is easy to get hooked.

This album may catch some people off guard, but most will likely be pleasantly surprised. Using her arsenal of styles Ditto has represented a variety of tempos but it is her up-beat grooves that stole the show once again. Why not come and give it a try in one of our Richer Sounds demo rooms today?