Style over substance. This is the first cliché that enters my head after listening through Warpaint’s new album. They clearly know what they’re doing – they’re being the foil of melody-driven, verse-chorus music that’s really come back into vogue recently. With bands like Haim, Chvrches and Best Coast flying the flag for more formulaic female spearheaded music these days, Warpaint are really an entirely different entity. Their songs meander through vocal driven dreamlike sequences that have drawn not-unwarranted comparisons to the Cocteau Twins. However, where the Cocteau Twins invest heavily in their own style, Warpaint seem to be unconvinced by their own sound, which tends to leave the listener unconvinced too.
That’s not to say this is intrinsically a bad album – it certainly has its charms. The percussion of Stella Mozgawa, as well as the intertwined vocals of Emily Kokal, Theresa Wayman and Jenny Lee Lindberg, are really the stars of this album. It starts off with “Intro”, a track which immediately brings to mind Electrelane’s open-cymbal’d energy and melts into “Keep It Healthy” which is the best track on the album, though unfortunately is only the second track heard. This track is true Warpaint, a drum-driven triumph of synthesised instruments, working in harmony to provide a truly enthralling song. It doesn’t matter that the lyrics are mostly indecipherable – Kokal’s vocals are almost a siren song, hypnotic and piercing. “Love Is To Die” starts off promisingly enough, then it gets to 3 minutes in and the crushing realisation that there won’t be the huge crescendo you were hoping for starts to set in.
From then on, the album becomes something of a chore to listen to, a highly-stylised journey through what seems to be Warpaint’s declaration of “we can act like we care so much less than you”. It trundles laboriously through slow-paced song after song and when the last note of final track “Son” is played, there’s very much a feeling of “Oh, is that it?”. It doesn’t end with a bang, but with a whimper, with the worst thing about this album is that it lacks strong melody, it lacks a sense of purpose, but most of all it lacks direction. The whole thing just floats along without any real consequence, rendering it emotionally irrelevant, whilst still being somewhat sonically pleasing. A bit like if an album were a robot – the sounds it makes are decent but it doesn’t engage emotionally in any way, and it sort of doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing or why it’s making the noises it’s making. The only way to really describe this album is by using the album artwork, a picture where different layers of features blend into one another without forming a singular image.