Originally published in The AU Review.
Hours before writing up this review, I shared Warpaint’s latest SoundCloud activity on my blog. Titled ‘Biggie’ and taken from their upcoming eponymous release, Warpaint’s new track is one that Portishead never wrote. No doubt influenced by the trip hop craze of the 90s, ‘Biggie’ is only one example of the new Warpaint.
Yes, there is still the mild post-punk and indie rock flavours thrown into the mix, but Warpaint feels, sounds and tastes a lot more synthetic. Mostly keys and percussion driven, the new record boasts a tighter production and a darker aesthetic. Engineered by Grammy-award winning rock producer Mark “Flood” Ellis (U2, Nick Cave, Nine Inch Nails), Warpaint also became the focus of an upcoming documentary by extremist videographer Chris Cunningham. The documentary is an artistic and abstract video diary of the making of the album, pushing the girls’ music further into the paradigm of art rock.
I love this new record. Arriving nearly four years after its predecessor, Warpaint is fresh and morose, taking all the original aspects of the debut and reshaping them. The Fool was undeniably good, but it was too safe, avoiding a stretch beyond the girls’ take on indie rock. The follow up manages to sound both risky and appropriate, simultaneously evoking a sense of integrity and reinvention. The girls have kept their ghostly riffs, eerie vocals and collective harmonies, but they’ve added percussive breaks and synth-laden keys and atmospherics. Stella Mozgawa is as versatile as ever on the drums and drum machines, transitioning smoothly from a bombastic rhythm into a minimalist one. You never know what’s coming up next, as each track is different to the one before it. There’s an indie folk track (‘Teese’), then a trip-hop one (‘Hi’) and then a punchy punk-rock Kills-esque piece (‘Disco//very’). Its consistent versatility prevents it from becoming dull and its sonic exploration indicates an inevitable evolutionary growth for Warpaint.
Like The Fool, the lyrics are as sombre and enigmatic as ever. “Love Is To Die” says it all in its title and other tracks spit “Eat you alive/rip you up and tear you in two” (‘Disco//very’) and whisper “All you see/you don’t want to see/but can’t seem to avoid” (‘Teese’). In ‘CC’, the girls sing “Give me more/I haven’t heard this before/been holding out for this one.” Mmm, sounds a lot like my reaction to the new album.
Fans unfamiliar with Warpaint will still recognise it as Warpaint. It’s one of those few sophomore releases to deliver something both original and familiar and on top of that, to deliver it well.
Review Score: 8.4 out of 10.