Warpaint are victims of their own hype. If they’d released a carbon copy of The Fool, more than three years on, they’d have been criticised for resting on their relaxed rock laurels and not pushing themselves enough; if they’d veered way off the beaten path, they’d have alienated everyone who had got so ridiculously excited about their second studio album, the imaginatively titled Warpaint. Sensibly, they chose to focus on introducing more electronic elements, on crafting a lazy, dreamy, ambient world or, in other words, on slightly altering an already successful formula.
But this hasn’t worked either. Why? Because even with their uncontroversial, often excellent offering, they don’t get anywhere. They are, nigh on inevitably, a bit disappointing.
What Warpaint lacks is momentum. The first track, Intro – I know, I know, so inspired – promises a definite attitude, all bold percussion and ballsy bass, a flirty tickle of what this band can do. But then, in less than two minutes, it stops; the rest of the album never lives up to the dizzy heights that the opening track swore it could deliver. The band has spoken before of how this album was written: in fits and starts, during sound checks, just jamming a bit. It’s a crying shame that, with a little more writing structure and a common goal, moments like these could have been the norm.
The next track, Keep It Healthy, is another highlight. Emily Kokal’s lead vocal is allowed more clarity and space than elsewhere on the record, and it’s a pleasure to hear her up close. Likewise, Stella Mozgawa’s beat is forceful and innovative, although never intrusive. Love Is To Die is let down by its near five-minute length; by the end, the dark undertones, the awkward melodic intervals and the excessive repetition of the word ‘die’ make for a soupy tiredness.
Hi is a slow, lo-fi creation that relies on its deep, synthy bass resonating with Mozgawa’s typically sensitive drums and Kokal’s dreamy harmonies on top. It’s a trippy, soothing song that sounds like School Of Seven Bells doing dream pop – so it’s pretty great.
But then, apart from another good (although overlong) song – Biggy – it peters out over the course of the remaining tracks until the beautiful and unexpected closing lullaby, Son. Such a substantial section of repetitive haze cannot be ignored; it’s a nagging downer, an expectation of something that pledges it’ll be there any minute now, but never quite arrives.
At least half of the album’s 51-minute running time is made up of ethereal, ghostly voices which, although undeniably beautiful, should be an accompaniment to a melody that doesn’t exist. It’s non-committal, fuzzy stuff that lacks purpose and vigour. As long as what you’re looking for is designed to relax you, to let you slip into its many layers without giving the music a great deal of thought, to sink fully into what are truly some gorgeous sounds, then you’ll enjoy it. If you’re hoping for something meatier, with opinions and a clear destination, you’ll find yourself at a loss.