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New Release: Warpaint, “The Fool”

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Warpaint: The Fool (2010)

Warpaint, a four woman band from L.A., and their first full length album; last year’s EP, Exquisite Corpse, made the rounds to big buzz, and we the people of Occidental welcomed the band last April, who did their thing in our very own Tiger Cooler. Their sound is heavily psychedelic and dark; repetitive basslines, dissonant guitar lines, multiple cresendoes per song, melodies always changing—it’s more meditative than melodic.

Some aspects of this sound are alienating. Though the girls have good voices and their harmonies work, the vocal melodies don’t, and neither do the lyrics; the vocals lack melodic backbone, which isn’t a bad thing in itself (not everyone is Smokey Robinson) but combined with the dissonant bass and dueling guitars (no conventional progressions or scales to be seen, save acoustic track “Baby”) and virtuostic drum tendency, it all gets muddy. The first minute of every song is the best, most coherent, and most memorable part of each song, where the good ideas are; the band’s tendency to then dissolve into dissonant groove tends to make the songs feel samey.

However, this is not to say that this album has no structure. “Undertow” (current single) and their self-titled song have concrete moments (I especially liked the latter’s snare-march section); and these songs benefit from that structure. I would guess there is no principal songwriter; it definitely sounds like a fusion of disparate points of views and genres—you can taste the ingredients—but due to the confidence of their execution and the quality and clarity of the production, the music is still listenable.

There’s a lot to be said for the dark ambiance of this album, and fans of this type of dark, groove based sound will find a lot to love with this record. The ideas presented have interest (especially as concerns the guitar sound presented, which commits to expressive dissonance over anthemic progression) and the band’s music pays homage to the darkest side of every genre you can think of. The band can appear to lack some direction and coherence in their songwriting, but for their fans, they make up for it with the atmosphere the songs present. It doesn’t have pop sensibility, but its jammy, its sinister, and it just might catch your interest. Check it out.

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