Musical tastes are a very odd and strange things. The chords, beats and voices that strike our inner workings, calm or excite the demons within or generally just bring us peace and solitude is such a non-objective aesthetic. One of my biggest issues with being a (non-read) music blogger idiot here in the blogesphere (aside from ranting in the wind like an idiot) is that writing about music is very confunding (as in confundus charm, you know from Harry Potter? idiot). You can talk academically about music if you chose. I don’t, because I find that the more I demystify music and how it’s built, the more if feels like algebra class. And while I come from the Thurston Moore school of music making (pick up whatever instrument you want and play it until it makes sense to you) I still love music that comes from the John Frusciante school of music making (have amazing natural ability and then study everything possible about music that exists and speak only in technical terms but still have a soul). Warpaint falls into the latter category, and it freaks me out how much I love their new album The Fool.
It was in fact my interest in John Frusciante that lead me to discover this band. The virtuoso mixed Warpaint’s 2008 EP Exquisite Corpse to great fan fare. And while I have read on the internets that many are calling this band a Pitchfork construct, I have a feeling it is the hand of a former Chili Pepper that created the buzz about this band. Dude played it on his guest spot on The Watt From Pedro Show and from that moment I was pretty taken. His hand prints were all over Exquisite Corpse and his influence seeps through on The Fool. Guitar work is clean both in the rhythm and leads, the bass is not just a background fabric, but bounces along in a nice deep resonance. The drums are playful, full in sound and tone, and don’t just act the support role normally ascribed. Music like this can go very bad, very quickly, but the mixing and mastering levels are pretty spot on, though I do have to turn it down a bit in the car, because the low-end distorts in my factory speakers.
Further, Frusciante’s influence can be found in the vocals as well. Anyone familiar with the man’s career, including his greatest contribution to the Chili Peppers cannon By The Way, is aware that dude knows how to put together vocal parts. Warpaint continues to present their brilliant, ethereal and dream like vocals consistently. They re-make the EP track “Undertow” here, and the vocals swarm over all the other competing instruments. And as talented and beautiful as main singer Emily Kokal is, and as much faith as I have that she could carry an entire album vocally, she is smart enough to utilize the other hues provided by her band-mates. Standout track, “The Bee’s” is just such a song. It starts out subtle and easy, with Kokal taking the lead, but as the song unfolds into an explosion of contained static, transitioning from programmed beats to ferocious drums, Warpaint also adds several layers of harmony and vocal accents throughout. “Composure” opens with sing-shout lyrics that are youthful and attentive that descend directly into a trip-hop bass line and cutting drumming. This is not a one-tick pony. Warpaint has a distinctive sound for sure, that is unmistakable. But they have the means and desire to bend and twist those distinctions in all manner of strangeness.
For a band often saturated in effects of echo, chorus and flange, Warpaint still makes some pretty honest music. The songs are epic in length and presentation, and every moment seems smartly considered. And yet with all this attention it still sounds incredibly fluid and soulful. Considering too that the core of this band has been together since 2004, they aren’t an overnight sensation and surely are not manufactured. To get to this point clearly took a great deal of concentration and focus. Warpaint are a band that have something to say and have been careful in how that comes out. The music does not suffer from this at all, because still at the core, there is the need to create, which ultimately drives this fantastic, intimate album.