It’s interesting how life experience and age can determine how a phrase is interpreted. The term “girl group” for our parents conjures images of Motown legends like The Supremes. Those of a music absorbing age in the 80s and 90s probably think of TLC, Spice Girls or Destiny’s Child. For a number of years after the women’s lib movement, it still seemed kind of taboo for women to rock. Bands such as The Runaways, Siouxsie and the Banshees and countless others trailblazed a path for modern girl groups to succeed and be accepted as the rock stars they are.
One such “accepted” band of ladies, Warpaint, has been making waves in the indie scene for years. Their 2009 John Frusciante-mixed EP, Exquisite Corpse, caught the attention of indie audiences, and held them with their hypnotic vocals and psychedelic overtones. The ladies continued to garner attention with a battery of live performances in their homebase Los Angeles area, and earned comparisons to other indie scene stars such as Best Coast and Wavves.
For their debut full album, The Fool, the quartet produces a haunting mix of ethereal vocals that sing of disturbing images and an evenly-paced album that is powerful in its sedated tone. Everything is slow, but has an air of purpose and is entrancing and spooky all at the same time. There is something simmering just under the surface. It’s intense and even more intense because you are unsure if they will burst from the docile tone to unleash a rush of potentcy.
Part of the reason the record is so successful is that you can really hear each girl expressing herself individuality through their instrument. They create amazing harmony and teamwork, but individually these girls pack some serious skills. The trippy, fuzzy byproduct is mesmorzing, and a breathe of fresh air in many ways. They play the kind of progressive artsy rock with electronic flourishes that seems to be the style of choice in the indie scene as of late, but they do it really, really well. Warpaint feels like something new even if they are lumped into the genre.
On the first single, “Undertow,” Emily Kokal dreamily utters, “Why you wanna blame me for your troubles; You better learn your lesson yourself.” A bit of female empowerment churned into a beautifully disturbing track. Perhaps the most interesting track, “Shadows,” has Kokal stumbling through the city, while her bandmates follow suit, clumsily playing through the song. It’s the kind of storytelling that modern electronic music has been missing.
While the record is understated in many ways, it rocks in a way that is subversive and subtle. Women are taking control moving the genre past the angsty punk of generations past, and moving to a place of comfort and confidence. Even if that means they might creep you out.
Words: Lori Bartlett
1. Set Your Arms Down
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