Los Angeles based, all female quartet Warpaint introduces us to their debut album The Fool in the most fitting way possible. Opener “Set Your Arms Down” slowly immerses itself into the listener’s consciousness, maintaining a measured rhythmic build coupled with a creeping, chorus-drenched guitar lead. The song threatens to erupt but never really does, all the while growing evermore ominous. Produced by Tom Biller who helmed the latest Liars album Sisterworld, The Fool shares some of that record’s eerie tension. But even at their most dissonant, Warpaint is still hypnotic with enchanting melodies managing to peak through the surface.
The album has been described as shoegazer with post-punk rhythms and the band rarely deviates from that formula. Through much of The Fool, vocalist Emily Kokal’s soul seems to have been mysteriously drained from her body. She sounds trancelike as she repeats “Composure’s” refrain “How can I keep my composure?” Nearly every vocal is layered with harmonies or doubles and draped in a cavernous reverb. This results in some downright gorgeous moments. The chorus of “Undertow” is breathtaking in its elastic, enveloping melodies. The flipside however, is that there are times when The Fool boarders on innocuous. With little variance from track to track, some songs are nearly indistinguishable from each other. With the exception of a song like “Baby,” the band doesn’t venture too far out of their comfort zone. “Baby” illustrates the extra dimensions Warpaint is capable of adding when they do break out of that mold. The song is certainly one of the true high points on the record. It’s a momentary divergence from the post-punk clatter, primarily featuring just vocalist Emily Kokal and an acoustic guitar. As a result, it’s one of the most honest spots on The Fool.
Warpaint navigates the kind of dreamy fantasies typical of Bat for Lashes but with Siouxsie and the Banshees’ primal urgency. Much of that urgency is due largely in part to the rhythm section’s excellent dynamics. Drummer Stella Mozgawa builds an excellent foundation for the band’s pulse with her confident rhythms. Without warning, Mozgawa effortlessly shuffles from rigid tribal stomps to unhinged dance beats. In fact, the beat on “Warpaint” is downright infectious.
Fittingly, the album’s slow burning closer ends rather abruptly, jarring you out of the dream state it lulls you into and back into reality. Warpaint isn’t the most innovative new band around; it’s certainly not hard to hear where they’re coming from. Even still, there is undeniable skill in their execution on The Fool, enough to keep it a fascinating listen from start to finish. This is a band to keep an eye on; there is loads of potential here. And sure, you can play spot the influences with The Fool, but it’s a lot more fun to simply enjoy it.