The word ‘jamming’ in the context of songwriting makes me wince. It sparks visions of aspiring teenagers in dank rehearsal rooms, bitterly struggling to squeeze out the next bonafide knockout, resulting in noodlings meandering into inevitable nothingness... When I heard that LA’s Warpaint were writing a new album based largely off jammings from soundchecks, I felt slightly apprehensive. Their first full-length release 'The Fool' from 2010 is a superb listen, but it longed for the succinctness that makes truly magnificent albums. Selecting the cream of the crop would have altogether benefitted the record, taking away that niggling sense of disjointedness. Having been bowled over by their impeccable live shows, I really wanted to feel the same for their studio output.
And now I do. For the first time in their 10-year history, Warpaint release something that is built from scratch by the band’s current members. This has translated into a self-assured record, which oozes cool whilst preserving the credibility that the band deserves. The production by Flood (The Smashing Pumpkins, PJ Harvey) pulls you through cascades of shimmering guitar reverbs, where you find earthy grooves, dancing about with rounded basslines. Although melancholic, ‘Keep it Healthy’ has a great feel of playfulness. Spiralling guitar-drum syncopation leads through to the primary single of the record, ‘Love Is To Die’. This track has a refreshingly minimal chorus, allowing space for Theresa Wayman to proclaim that love is everything – from life, to death, and just letting yourself go. The bass at the start of ‘Biggy’ is one of the coolest sounds I’ve heard in a while. The track closes out with a breathtaking, hauntingly alienated guitar line, reminiscent of the ambiences of Bark Psychosis’ ’94 album 'Hex'. The bass and percussion on ‘Go In’ bobs up and down on a sea of breathy vocals, making it a very seductive addition to the record. ‘CC’, perhaps my favourite track, is dark and determined, blurring the divide between melody and discordance.
Warpaint’s more striking sounds have lost the abrasiveness of previous releases, leaving the listener nothing else to do but completely immerse themselves.
This may partly be a testament to the fantastic production, which creates an atmosphere of distinct width and space. Overall, the songwriting of the LA foursome has matured and solidified over the last 3 years. It feels like they know what they are doing. The album is rightfully self-titled. This is Warpaint.
Words: Alex Macdougall