After 17 years with garage-punk band the Gossip, Beth Ditto makes her solo debut with Fake Sugar. Ditto collaborated with Jennifer Decilveo (Andra Day, Ryn Weaver) to produce the record, which, Decilveo masterfully balanced out Ditto's punk bias with pop flare and perspective. As Ditto puts it, "She was the rollerblades to my roller skates. We'd argue all day long and I loved it."
On Fake Sugar, Ditto approaches love, loss, looking back and moving forward with all the sexiness, poignancy, power and beauty befitting such an iconoclastic artist. The album is a mash-up of driving blues, malt-shop pop, swooning rock and countrified soul. "In and Out" is a hip-shaker with a '50s girl group vibe, "Savoir Faire" pairs a disco stomp with Ditto's crackling rock vocal and "Go Baby Go" is a tribute to Suicide's Alan Vega, decked out in black leather, racing down an interstellar aural highway. On "Oh My God," Ditto's rawness, quaver and cool split the difference between Tina Turner and Bobbie Gentry.
The lyrics of Fake Sugar are full of such allusions, from rhymes cribbed from schoolyard handclap games to slang like "Yankee dime" (a kiss). She's also a newlywed, which has given her a fresh perspective on romance that informs several songs on Fake Sugar. "This is adulthood, baby," she quips. "You fought for marriage equality, now you gotta live in it."