Warpaint: Infectious Melodies, Slow-Burning Fury
Few debuts arrive as fully formed as Warpaint’s first record. In today’s practically instantaneous hype cycles, it’s become the norm for a band’s first musical utterances to be released into the world too early, initially loved but then endlessly dissected and scrutinized. So it’s rare to find a band like Warpaint, which has had time to develop and hone a distinct musical signature.
Warpaint has been together in one form or another since its members moved to L.A. in 1999; it self-released an EP in 2008, mixed by Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante. The band’s first full-length album, The Fool, delivers on that EP’s promise in a big way, which is a credit to the four women — Emily Kokal, Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa — who contribute Warpaint’s blurry, ethereal vocals and lean post-punk sound. Each member shares the singing and songwriting spotlight, and all four demonstrate brash confidence as they expertly play through their inventive arrangements and complicated yet energized art-rock.
Like many songs on The Fool, “Undertow” begins simply before unfolding into a gorgeous sprawl of dark, hypnotic textures. Built around overlapping guitar patterns, Mozgawa’s propulsive drumming, and a gauzy sheen lying just underneath, “Undertow” finds a balance between infectious pop melodies and slow-burning fury. Yet it’s the band’s transfixing vocal harmonies that provide the highlight. With voices both alluring and overflowing with attitude, Kokal and company sing, “Why you wanna blame me for your troubles? / You better learn your lesson yourself / Nobody ever has to find out what’s in my mind tonight.” As The Fool’s catchiest song, “Undertow” exemplifies Warpaint’s considerable musical potential. But as expertly realized as the song is, potential is all about room to grow — and in this case, that’s pretty exciting.