Warpaint WarpaintThe Fool
ROUGH TRADE Live from a Los Angeles that seems to slowly be recovering it’s musical splendour, the four women who make up Warpaint get angry every time somebody calls them a “girl band” (!). Their name is going to give people something to talk about, and to speak well of. Remember their names, because guitarist Emily Kokal, Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg on the bass, and Stella Mozgawa (the definitive drummer after actress Shannyn Sossamon, Jenny’s sister and the one who now directs their videos, took a turn on the drumsticks) are here to stay. Next to Zola Jesus, Dum Dum Girls, Best Coast and Glasser, they are helping to up the female pull of a California that is only giving us good news this year.
As a group they’ve been working since 2004, when they started writing the first songs that they would record in 2006 and would finally edit in 2008. Their presentation EP from that time, “Exquisite Corpse”, was mixed by John Frusciante, Emily’s then boyfriend, and a clear influence when she was learning to play the guitar. That launch couldn’t have found a better title when it came to baptising the way they worked, that of the exquisite corpse , according to which each one of them contributes the same art to the lovely cascade of images that they manage to unleash together. Sharing the vocal work, Emily, Theresa, and Jenny exude frustration and pain similar to the way that Miki Berenyi (Lush) or Kirstin Hersh (Throwing Muses) did in the 90’s. In fact, there is something about “The Fool” that gives it an air of music from the margins—out of fashion, certainly—but that is a quality that makes it stronger.
The Warpaint equation is complex. Don’t be frightened by abnormal hybrids that come up when you try to find something similar to their sound. Did I hear The Organ meets Bauhaus? The xx reinterpreting the Slits? Whatever you want, but the factory seal of Warpaint, very highly consolidated considering for a first LP, jumps out above any first impressions. “The Fool” not only presents itself as a more-than-acceptable response to The xx hangover, but also positions itself at the top of the ranking in the category of “debut of the year”, a competition that’s really hot this season.
Time has made it like this. “Exquisite Corpse” could have been the big jump for them, but the influence of the hype didn’t go their way, and they decided not to knock themselves out. It was better to take it easy and wait, give shape to new songs, and little by little polish this LP that is coming out now on Rough Trade, a label that fits them like a glove, and which signed them without thinking twice after seeing their performance at the last SXSW. “The Fool” effectively presents a band that is different from that of the EP, a band that didn’t want to put any of it’s old songs on it, and which today sounds much clearer and more expansive –nine songs in almost fifty minutes– and less histrionic. Now, Jenny, Emily, Theresa and Stella concern themselves more with the soul of their songs than with their appearance, and they also make it clear that for this reason, it is at times inevitable that they seek out thorny instrumental solutions that tend to fall on the difficult and risky side.
This is what the art-rock of “The Fool” is like, full of opportunities to explore, brave and always serious, with the appearance of a desert, albeit a highly fertile one. We’re looking at an album that reveals it’s secrets little by little and which, formally, is practically seamless. Mixed by somebody as important as Andrew Weatherall and with rumours going around that his great after-punk inspiration Siouxsie participated in the sessions to bring the album to term, this is a work to approach furtively: organic, distant, and full of unexpected hills and valleys that flow into The Cure ( “Bees”), or later into Nirvana ( “Majesty”), and finally into Blonde Redhead ( “Composture”). Keep an eye on them because they’re going to surprise you. You’ve come across something mysterious and mature, destined to run only long-distance races.