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The Fool

[Rough Trade; 2010]

By ; October 28, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Warpaint arrived in 2009 with a well-received EP Exquistite Corpse which provided dynamic art-rock grooves with sublime female vocals; a style not necessarily lacking in modern alternative music with the likes of School of Seven Bells, The Dirty Projectors and The XX around, but nevertheless Warpaint seemed necessary. Fans of that EP will be delighted to know that the full-length follow-up The Fool continues along the same trajectory as Exquisite Corpse and, for the most part, capitalises upon the foundations set on that EP.

Warpaint’s most immediate attraction (musically) is the cool, confident vocal style of co-lead singers Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman. Kokal’s voice in particular is sultry and perfectly emotes her lyrics which almost without exception put her in the point of power, reprimanding the use of violence in the opener “Set Your Arms Down,” or teasing an attracted male on “Undertow.” Wayman proves just as capable, asserting herself in a male-female power struggle in “Majesty.” In fact, for a group that is comprised of four females it would not be unfair to assume before listening that their main method of attack would be to use four-part harmonies wherever possible, but more often than not Kokal or Wayman sing on their own, perhaps with some backing vocals thrown in; but harmonies are sparingly used. These women are happier to let their instruments do the talking and with some of the deep-set grooves they manage to work their way into on this record you can understand why. Almost every song is happy to get lost in its own fantastic musical doodles; self-titled track “Warpaint,” which starts out on kraut-based tracks but smoothly switches channels to a jangly 80’s-indie influenced tone and then back again, the bass-heavy, rumbling “Bees” and especially the dusky, desert rock of the stand out track “Undertow” are all prime examples of this. More time is spent on building a wall of sound than on implementing a hook, and this is something that sets Warpaint apart from other acts.

For all the confidence that is shown on this record, some of the more notable moments arise when Kokal does decide to show her vulnerable side. Tone and mood seem to come naturally to Warpaint and at these more demure moments the music slows and diminishes to match the emotions of the singer. “Shadows” starts up with a simple acoustic guitar backing lyrics about being afraid, drunk, tired and alone, which then moves into a louder, more-rousing collage of sounds as Kokal gets angry and accusatory at an unnamed perpetrator. The one true moment of emotional weakness on The Fool comes on the ballad “Baby.” A stark contrast to the rest of the album; Kokal shows herself as defenceless against the powers of the person she loves, and as her confidence has been depleted so has the music; there’s just acoustic guitar here, but for once the women do make use of their vocal capabilities to add more depth to this simple and touching song.

At 47 minutes, you might expect The Fool to comprise of more than a meagre 9 tracks, but that tells you just how much Warpaint like to jam and extend their tracks with additional minutes of their own brand of rock. The band are extremely capable of keeping your attention for these extended pieces of music and the only complaint could be that perhaps there isn’t enough differentiation in sound from track to track. However, when you factor into the equation the lyrical and vocal prowess of Theresa Wayman and especially Emily Kokal you’ll only end up enjoying the musical and emotional ride.


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