All-girl post rock quartet Warpaint’s debut longplayer finallyfloats into record shops a little under six years after theirformation, cresting a wave of almost hysterical expectation.
Rough Trade’s new signing ooze the kind of distressed glamour thatmakes record executives go weak at the knees – four stunning,dissolute model types wielding guitars and a dangerously languid,sexually-charged delivery. There’s also enough Hollywood connectionshere to fill a reality television show (RZA‘s a fan! ActressShannyn Sossamon’s sister plays bass! John Frusciante mixed therecord!).
Inevitably namechecked as one of the year’s buzz bands by all and sundry, anda seemingly ever-present on indie tastemaker blogs, now the record has finally arrived,will it live up to thehype? Having knocked around on the live scene for years, inspiringhyperbolic reviews of transcendental shows supporting the likes ofThe xx, Warpaint are certainly not an unknown quantity – yetdescribing what exactly they are is more blurred. Theirfocussed-at-being-unfocussed sound is a curious mish-mash of styles,some of them incredibly cutting edge and some gloriouslyunfashionable, including hints of psychedelia, prog, grunge anddroning post punk.
While The Fool is perhaps not the most immediate blast from therelatively-thriving LA underground scene (that accolade should surelygo to lo-fi power punkers Best Coast), sharing as it does afuzzy, proggy sound closer to The Jesus And Mary Chain than thestoner thrash of No Age or Wavves, it’s certainly animpressive d�but that deserves many of the plaudits coming itsway.
Perhaps due to the fact that the band have had rather a long timeto perfect their sound, Warpaint sound like very little else outthere. By dint of apparently belonging to no particular movement, anddrawing influences from some pretty wide sources, they exude the kindof aloofness that can’t be stage managed. The effect is best displayedby co-lead singer Emily Kokal’s dreamy, intimate delivery (thewhole band share vocal duties), which offsets the raw and slightlyunfocused group behind her. The band’s lyrics, that often forefront apunky and relatively empowering feminism (sample lyric: “Why you wannablame me for your troubles/ You better learn your lesson yourself” -Undertow) are sometimes less successful, but it’s a small point -Warpaint’s strongest selling point is their ability to pull off theneat trick of sounding like nobody and everybody at the same time.
Opener Set Your Arms Down is case and point, mixing as it does the urgent,uneasy drumming and choppy guitars of Radiohead‘s single ThereThere with The xx’s haunting, shimmering lustful angst. It’s anarresting start to the record. Another highlight is Undertow, a surprisingly sprightlyretooling of classic 4AD shoegazers like Red House Painters andCocteau Twins, mixed with a poppy bass line that veersbrilliantly into funk territory, while Baby reneges on the reverb andallows Kokal an acoustic torch song. Yet there are a few too many -Bees and the eponymous Warpaint for example – that tend to fall backon the deeply reverberating guitar lines that drive much of therecord.
It can’t be said that The Fool is always an easy record to love.While obviously musically varied, every song weighs in at between fourand seven minutes and as many are so slow-burning, so indefinable instructure and composition that The Fool can be a frustratingexperience for the casual listener.
Yet, it’s arguable that the casual listener isn’t really the band’sdemographic. Listen to The Fool a couple of times and the record’scharms start to unveil in front of you – things like Shadows’Pixies-style Spanish guitars, that can seem self-consciousinitially, begin to take shape and spread out in a hypnotising sprawl.While not perfect, The Fool is a very promising d�but that grows instature on every listen. If you’re willing to put the time in, thiscould easily live up to the hype.