The title and the cover photo of a uniformed soldier are enough to spark fears that Smith’s eighth album takes a turn for the impersonal — only fair after two albums consumed with personal grief. On the page, Gung Ho‘s lyrics are rife with topical clunkers like “Glitter in Their Eyes.” (“Genius stalking in new shoes/ Have you got WTO blues?”) Luckily, that line is yoked to the most irresistible riff since “Because the Night,” which pushes the song forward so smoothly there’s no time to object. Producer Gil Norton gives the album an energetic sheen while still allowing the lengthy “Strange Messengers” and the title track ample space to stretch out. Smith’s singing voice has never been so supple and strong: On “New Party,” she leaps between notes and shifts accents as if staging a radio drama. It’s almost hard to imagine a woman so far into her career coming up with new tricks that work so well, but the evidence is impossible to refute.
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