As the lengthy tour supporting Warpaint’s debut album proper progressed, the songs became more freeform, more skagged out, proggier even. Just before the band set out to record the follow-up, they talked of exploring an acoustic direction. However, with album number two completed, the end result is neither the great lost Van Der Graaf Generator record nor a set of sweet Simon & Garfunkelesque campfire singalongs.
Instead, the songs on show here are generally more concise than in the past and an electronic bent has clearly entered the picture. So while the album commences more or less where The Fool left off, the shadow of Massive Attack and Portishead perks it’s smoke-shrouded head up on tracks like ‘Hi’ and ‘Biggy’. There is a murkiness to the sound, a thick fog enveloping every note, every nuance, every beat, every breath – an intangible vagueness, akin to hugging vapour. While The Fool definitely danced in the mist, the world Warpaint have created here is much sparser and, initially, a little harder to wrap either your arms or your head around.
There is a secretive nature to the record, a sensuousness making it feel more personal than their previous output. And while there is something thrilling about sneaking peeks into Warpaint’s private world, when it diverts from this fragile mood, such as on the nightmare at Studio 54 sound of ‘Disco//Very’, it juts out awkwardly. And though it may have been included to provide a different element to the record, it fails to rise above the obvious influence of ESG, leaving a confused stain in the middle of the album. ‘CC’ also rambles on for four minutes or so in search of a tune and then sneaks out when it’s failed to find one.
But despite a couple of missteps, once you stumble through the darkness, a heap of great tracks charm their way into the blood vessels (‘Love Is To Die’, ‘Drive’, ‘Feeling Alright’). But the concept of a ‘grower’ album which slowly unfolds itself is a difficult sell now, with so much music to listen to and a zillion other distractions at the flick of a finger. Yet, in this instance, the work involved in grasping the wonder of Warpaint is entirely worth it. One can’t help admire the single-mindedness of what Warpaint have created here, ignoring the more obvious route that they could have gone down following their initial success and, instead, exploring something much more ghostly and sublime.