Warpaint Battle-Ready

Music and Art

Warpaint’s debut, The Fool, was dark, seductive and sinister, but there was still a hint of fear and vulnerability. As Warpaint opens, the powerful drums and increased tempo immediately hit with an unbridled confidence, banishing any suggestion of such weaknesses.

Initially there’s slight apprehension. The exciting but truncated ‘Intro’ leads into ‘Keep It Healthy’, which launches straight in with Hail To The Thief style guitar lines and time signatures alongside climbing vocals and a driving rhythm section. After two and a half minutes, however, it seems to be stuck in a rut, but suddenly the voice lurches into the heavens. From here on it’s reassuringly obvious that Warpaint are entirely in control and are fully aware of this fact.

This self-assurance makes Warpaint bolder than its predecessor. Most songs are at a faster pace, driven by the pulsating bass and the drums, which are crisper and more purposeful than before. ‘Disco // very’ (not too disco) exemplifies this with its terrifying, and apparently nauseating, ferocity, as they demonically spit out lines such as “We’ll kill you, rip you up and tear you in two.” There are new touches too: the trip-hop drum machine of ‘Hi’ and synth-line on ‘Biggy’ fit the ominous atmosphere perfectly; slower songs such as ‘Go In’ possess an industrial chug instead of the finger-picked acoustic guitars of ‘Baby’ and ‘Billie Holiday’.

Old characteristics have also benefited from this courage. Catchy hooks are still mostly absent as Warpaint continue to find beauty in piercing dissonance and an addictive lack of resolution. The first proper chorus on the album, over seven minutes in, starts with what appears to be Theresa Wayman hitting the wrong note, but she pulls the whole song up and away with her. These unexpected, daring shifts help turn the album into a sort of dreamscape, aided in no small part by the ethereal backing vocals and flickering guitar.

All this leads closer to ‘Son’, which would feel delicate even when not contrasted with the strength of the 11 tracks before it. It is fragile, with marching band drums leading it inevitably on; this time it is Warpaint and not the listener in the role of the ignorant mortal unable to see the next step. It is a staggering reminder of both their sensitivity, which although present on Warpaint is often dominated by the album’s slight bullishness, and their ability to make simplistically poignant music. More fittingly, it is an unexpected conclusion to an album beautifully haunted by such swift and audacious changes.