All-female quartet fails to dazzle on first listen
Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 03:01
In a day and age in which it seems as though female musicians only get attention for the wrong reasons — while venturing a bit into obscurity, one may stumble across a little Los Angeles band called Warpaint, made up of all female members who can actually play their instruments, and have something intelligent to say.
Warpaint landed on the scene in 2008 with the release of their EP “Exquisite Corpse,” which was mixed by former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist and virtuoso, John Frusciante.
They gained a reasonable amount of steam with tracks such as “Elephants” and “Billie Holiday,” and were soon signed to Rough Trade Records in 2009, where they released their first full-length album, “The Fool.”
Since “The Fool,” the band has gone on extensive tours and zooming festivals and in addition to
taking some downtime to pump out their latest self-titled album. Surprisingly, Warpaint has emerged from its hiatus with a definite R&B influence and an even more mellow sound, something once thought impossible.
The first release from the album was a nearly five-minute track called, “Love is to Die.”
A real pot-stirrer, due to the track’s serious deviation from the band’s norm and its very unexpected release, drummed up a huge rumble of excitement from old, adoring fans and piqued the interest of some new ones, igniting a desire for more.
Although fascinating and challenging, the 12-track record is very hook-free and one-level.
“Keep it Healthy,” the opening track, is heavily groove-based, accompanied with the layered, ethereal vocals Warpaint is so known for. It’s exciting and sets the stage for a very dramatic experience with the percussion really being showcased.
The band teases with the line, “How could we forget where we have come from?”
Unfortunately, it seems Warpaint may have forgotten itself.
Most of the album maintains a very dark motif and the fourth track, “Hi,” really plays up this concept.
Lead singer Emily Kokal’s clear, ringing vocals resonate in what seems to be a big, empty room. The track sounds pretty standard until a sudden bombastic, boom-bap. Because this track is tuneless save for the percussive elements, it could easily be considered a capella. “Hi,” is probably the most interesting
track — a big departure from their traditional style.
Some of the least interesting tracks were, “Biggy,” “Teese” and “Go In.” Both “Biggy” and “Go In,” are very moany and lethargic. For lack of a better word, a majority of these tracks are very boring.
“Teese’s” lyrics are the simplistic acoustic song’s highlight: “All you see/You don’t want to see/But can’t seem to avoid/When you’re trying to be right.” Its tone is very confessional and sweet. It hearkens back to the group’s honest roots.
“Disco//Very,” like the title suggests, has a very dancy beat. There is an interesting juxtaposition between the nasty, angry lyrics, (“Don’t you bother, we’ll kill you/Rip you up and tear you in two,”) and the fun beat, making this song the most enjoyable.
Although it is danceable, it doesn’t hook well, but this seems to add to the track’s appeal. It’s like dance music done right.
“Feeling Alright,” and “Drive,” are the last two tracks on the album worth talking about. “Feeling Alright,” is really groovy and unusual, the lyrics are discernable above all the reverb. They give the track a sense of warmth.
“I’m growing up to a star state/I know you see me now/Under the flawless stars, feeling alright/Careless not hopeless, you can’t bring me down.” This is definitely an upbeat, empowering song.
“Drive,” a track that sends shivers down the spine, sounds like dark, grey tornado clouds and rain and hail on a slick highway road. It sounds like a narrow escape. This could be the song you sing in
dangerous situations to keep yourself alert. As Kokal croons, “Into the eye, into the storm,” one can feel danger approaching.
While the album definitely stands out, on their previous records the second someone heard the first note they were hooked: not so with “Warpaint.”
It felt a little one-level, but not for lack of experiment, which is the paradox. After a few listens it may hook one in, but from a first listen, this may not be their most successful.