Album Review: Warpaint – ‘Warpaint’

Warpaint_Warpaint_Album_CoverFour long years since their full-length debut ‘The Fool’, Warpaint open their self-titled follow up with an apology. Seconds into ‘Intro’, drummer Stella Mogwaza makes a minor error, drawing attention to it with a scream and a “sorry”, then shrugs it off and begins an impressive percussive performance, setting the tones for band and album. ‘Intro’ has a rollicking drive and guitars that weigh ambience and unease, clearly intending to establish the theme to come; but this momentum is lost on ‘Keep It Healthy’, an exercise in Celtic harmonies that evokes Sinead O’Connor’s vocals but none of her ballsiness.

With single ‘Love is To Die’ though, a stride is established in tune to Mogwaza’s drum. The heavy-washed, fragile voice and staccato guitar ally with her to remind one of Massive Attack.  On ‘Hi’ and ‘Biggy’, as the electronics are ramped up Warpaint begin to bizarrely sound like darlings of the Bristol trip-hop scene, the former track crying out for a Tricky guest verse to add grit and sheer, surreal hilarity (remember his guest appearance with Beyoncé during her Glastonbury headline slot? Yes, it happened).

As a final reference point for their cap, chief engineer Nigel Godrich gifts the same Eastern flavours to ‘Disco/Very’ as he did Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’. As good as it feels to smugly recognise a producer’s trademark, it doesn’t match up with the echoing O’Connor bent singer Emily Kokal has put on her voice for this record. Similarly, Godrich’s typically ‘dense’ finish seems at moments, such as on ‘Feeling Alright’, as if he is over-treating a track that didn’t merit inclusion. Ultimately, this album has been too heavily washed, and seems to have shrunk in stature as a result.


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