As we get older we get more confident and more stubborn, usually in equal measures. That is what seems to have happened to Warpaint. Their second album is not one that smacks of a band attempting to chase the populist vote, being by turns defiantly introspective and brazenly personal. In a stubbornly confident way.
You can’t say it’s misplaced. This isn’t the head-shaking refusal of a Creationist to loosen their white-knuckled grip on a belief system following the presentation of a stegosaurus skeleton and detailed carbon dating results. More a calm, focused conviction in a path which, actually, does lead to rich rewards.
Live, that path means that where they once meandered they, well, still meander. It’s just that the scenery they trek through as they set off on another one of those endless jams is far more interesting. Whereas the fug they weave once appeared to hide nothing more than additional layers of haze, there’s now the definite white flash of teeth and claw.
It’s the older songs where the effect is most apparent. Bees is spiky and tricky. Composure is cinematic and delightfully unsettling while Undertow, the voices of Emil Kokal and Theresa Wayman conjoining in ritualistic spookiness, appears weightier and more purposeful than ever before.
While previously the no frills live show seemed borne of a certain aloofness, it now just suggests a happy band wanting to get on with the simple act of performing. Which, in bassist Jennie Lee Lindberg’s case, means endearingly strut about doing something halfway between a salsa and impersonating the tai-chi instructor that used to come on with Lou Reed. But, if the sheer tonnage of humanity crammed into KOKO is anything to go by, there’s a lot of people who are very happy to see Warpaint just get on with the simple act of playing. Every single baroque, velveteen tier of the venue is burstingly full.
Rightly so, as the tracks from the second album are spectacular, if not what could be described as describe as obvious or easy going. Biggy is delicate and floating, weird when you consider the pummelling electronic riff that jackhammers from it into you at clod-hopping volume. Drive suggests that they’ve locked an errant stray from Cliff Martinez‘s Italo-disco back catalogue in a dark cupboard, where it now mournfully peeks out with a wounded look in its eyes, while the stern undulations of Disco // Very is six of ADULT and half-a-dozen of the Knight Rider theme tune.
Warpaint go less populist and end up more popular. They may have headed, blinkers on, down a path intended to satisfy nothing other than their own creative desires, but they’ve ended up as a more enticing, hypnotising and intoxicating prospect. As an onanist would no doubt concur, score one for pleasing yourself.