LA four-piece re-imagine 80s goth and tap into a singular slo-core style.
Martin Aston 2010-10-25
Though Warpaint were probably minus-four-years-old at the time, and on the wrong continent, the all-female LA quartet appear to have a direct line back to 1982 Britain. When ‘gothic’ was not a term of abuse, long overcoats were the alt-fashion and resistance to New Romanticism was on a par with anti-nuclear protest. Guitars were spidery, basses were sepulchral and female voices resembled sirens, coaxing you on to the rocks of their angst. The xx know a lot about this post-punk world, and they know a lot about this Warpaint, having asked them to join them on their current US tour.
It’s not just The xx who are clued in. Besides most every ‘talent rising’ media slot going, former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante co-mixed their 2009 (but recorded in 2007) debut EP Exquisite Corpse (such a quintessentially 1982 title), and they have Hollywood pals via their original drummer Shannyn Sossamon, now a full-time actress. But what truly earmarks Warpaint is how they re-imagine those early 80s hallmarks. Not with xx-style dubstep but a serpentine, borderline-psych flow (they’re from LA, not South London) that taps into classic slo-core (Galaxie 500, Low, Mazzy Star) but is entirely theirs. Likewise the sound of three singers (spearhead Emily Kokal joined by guitarist Theresa Wayman and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg). It’s much more than Cat Power in triplicate, but you get the gauzy idea.
Nine songs and 47 minutes long, their album debut feels like wandering through desert plains and darkened streets, tumbleweed at your feet and in your brain. It’s by no means instant, and obvious hooks are thin on the ground, but hang around and everything falls into place. If nothing out-performs Exquisite Corpse’s exquisite highlight Billie Holiday – which exquisitely interpolated Mary Wells’ Motown swinger My Guy – the twilit Baby comes close. The near six-minute Undertow, is expertly titled ("we're going for an overall underwater mood," they said last year) and Composure’s schoolyard of chanting voices, skittering middle section and combining coda equally won’t let go. The nearest The Fool encroaches on xx turf is Bees, with its digi-beats and luminous bass. This album’s guest mixer is Andy Weatherall, so that should give you a clue. But so should the fact Kokal and Wayman were raised in hippie communes, but sound like the sky has slightly caved in. Come smash yourself against their rocks, you won’t regret it.