Album: Warpaint – The Fool
Sometimes it’s hilarious how unlikely an artist’s background is. Think of La Roux‘s mum being on The Bill. It’s a similar thing with Warpaint, in a way. Springing from Los Angeles, the home of Baywatch, rarely has a band sounded less suited to where they come from â€“ icy, detached… cool.
There’s been plenty of hype surrounding the female quartet ever since we started hearing the brilliant, haunting ‘Undertow’ (which sits beautifully near the start of The Fool) and their, er, brilliant, haunting cover of David Bowie‘s ‘Ashes to Ashes’.
It isn’t just me being unimaginative with my adjectives; range isn’t something Warpaint are particularly bothered about either, and why should they be? For all its stylistic singularity and sparse, reverb-laden introspect, the band’s debut full-length album will draw inevitable comparisons with recent touring mates The XX.
Indeed, anyone who has enjoyed them live – or heard 2009′s John Frusciante-produced EP Exquisite Corpse – is unlikely to be surprised by what they hear on The Fool. Though that’s by no means to say they won’t be pleased by it.
Perhaps I’m being unfair. There is the odd infusion; an MIA-esque snap-tin beat joins a mess of fuzzy bass in ‘Bees’ â€“ a rare moment of twisting, jerking drama. Yet within minutes we’re on to Shadows, and we’re back to the church-hall echo, the relentless rat-a-tat of snare and, of course, the undoubtedly gorgeous wail of vocal harmonies. Simplicity is most definitely the buzzword here.
Indeed, the highlights of The Fool are those where the basic elements that make Warpaint so enthralling are laid completely bare. Album stand-out ‘Baby’ is just that â€“ glorious in its minimalism. “Don’t you call anybody else baby” is sung with such piercing honesty that it couldn’t sound farther from the clichÃ©d folk message that it probably is.
I read a ludicrous BBC article just before writing this which surmised, among other things, that bands making music in the Spotify Age need to make something ear-boggling to break through.
Warpaint’s success is the perfect example of why that is utter bollocks. Intelligent, honestly-written music will always win over scenes and hyperbole, hands down. Actually, hands up – who knows what Fucked Up are up to these days? Yep, thought as much.
Alright, so The Fool will break no ground. It lacks the pace to be ranked as great, and in the end of decade lists it will undoubtedly be forgotten. All the same, it’s a nugget of purity that you’ll cherish for today and maybe just a little longer.
The Fool is out now on Rough Trade.
By Stephen Jones