Following on from humble success of the re-released Exquisite Corpses EP (2009), the relatively unknown in Europe (until now anyway) all girl, L.A ensemble Warpaint are ready to face up to the challenge of matching the hype with their debut album The Fool. While much of the buzz about Warpaint focuses heavily on their famous industry friends (Health et al), the fact that one of them is the sister of actress Shannyn Sossamon (who used to be in the band) and the reality that it is an all female line-up; what is often neglected is the fact that Warpaint’s ability to generate genuinely astonishing music.
The record is a curious collection of ethereal vocals and harmonies, muddled with thrumming bass, spiky guitar squalls and drums that dart from frenzied poundings to trancey steadiness. The instantly identifiable single ‘Undertow’, has a Fleetwood Mac circa Rumours feel to it at first before all the subtle tweaks and nuances of haunting vocals, ‘Your brown eyes are blue skies’, the guitars and rumblings of bass come into their own. ‘Bees’ has an almost industrial, yet danceable vibe to it and ‘Composure’ is a colossal, unearthly tug-of-war of self-consciousness laced in shimmering guitar, which begins with some half shouted waltzy chanting.
The real gem on The Fool, is to be found in the bunny-boiler beauty of ‘Baby’; its ennui laden count-in leads to disturbingly calm yet pleading vocals from Emily Kokal, while the soundscape of guitars and rhythm sections strike softly and then aggressively as Kokal’s choral becomes more emphatic. ‘Lissie’s Heart Murmur’ is a pure lilting joy, which brings a succinct and dreamy minor chord laden close to the album.
The overall effect of Warpaint’s spectral soundscapes is that of navel-gazing, cloud-spotting beauty sparring with psychedelic sonic brutality. There’s a lot to love about The Fool, its only fault is that it’s a grower (if that may be deemed a fault), it requires a patient and tentative ear; this album will not satisfy the aural appetites of those looking for instant gratification. It depends on what you want; if you are happy with a ‘Big Mac’ album (good for a quick fix, but you’ll be starving later), then The Fool is perhaps not for you. But if you’re after something that will warm the soul and offers sustenance Warpaint will see you through.