Nobody’s Fool But Their Own
After stirring up a fair amount of hype over the past year following their Exquisite Corpse EP, Los Angeles’ Warpaint brings us their delicately brooding debut full-length, The Fool. Caught between the worlds of propulsive post-punk and drifting dream pop, the quartet aim to have the best of both, with impressive but uneven results.
The girls hit a confident stride early on with the opening duo of “Set Your Arms Down” and the title track. The former builds to a propulsive crescendo worthy of latter day Radiohead underneath the sleepy but seductive vocals of Emily Kokal (all four band members eventually share vocals) while the latter sports a grungy guitar lick and crunchy corresponding bass that recall what Lush may have sounded like covering Soundgarden. A decent start, for sure, but those numbers are mere appetizers for the stunning single “Undertow.” Aptly titled, it gradually pulls the listener in with a winding, Fleetwood Mac-esque pop melody and a dreamy, yet plaintive chorus that recalls Kurt Cobain’s more solemn triumphs. By the time it gallops to its well-earned climax, you’ll have no hope of swimming out.
At least, not for another two songs or so. While the band builds a mesmerizing momentum in its first half (the spectacularly Spooky “Bees” and sparse stutter of “Shadows” follow “Undertow’s” lead quite nicely), the second half quickly begins to meander. “Composure” feels lacking in any such thing, starting and stopping aimlessly like a jam session between live songs, and while “Majesty” could almost pass for a Blonde Redhead/Yo La Tengo hybrid, it never fully takes off like you’d want it too. The aching acoustic ballad “Plea” fares better with a rare display of vulnerability (think Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps”) but struggles to keep listener’s attention afloat amidst the sonic driftwood around it.
But make no mistake, though they may not be able to hold attention throughout a whole full-length yet, they certainly command it with their capable instrumentation and icy-hot live performances. So long as they can continue to deliver on the promise of “Undertow” next time around, that attention will keep being paid forward.