Plonking your name on your record is a declaration of intent. This might just be a personal hang-up, but even if the source of that declaration is sheer laziness, even if we retroactively endeavour to disguise the band’s brazen attempt to define themselves (The White Album, The Black Album, The Blue Album), the choice still signifies something significant about that band. Namely, that this record - this very record that’s touched your fingertips one way or another - is definitely and defiantly us.
So how do Warpaint-era Warpaint see themselves? Well, full of ambient sound and stylish melancholy, signifying… something. Oh. This isn’t to miss the point; undoubtedly, the four-piece have always been about the slow-burning fuse rather than the impending cannon-blast. All too often though on the follow-up to The Fool, the quartet fall prey to unwinding the song-writing spool too far, their propensity for the simultaneously transportive and transfixing fading in impact as songs unwind, undulate and steadily stifle like so much sonic dry ice.
The consequence is that their artfully constructed tension starts to drain, the nervous romantic anxiety that has always marked their strongest material growing tedious when excessively deployed elsewhere over the full 50 minutes.
The keystone to this unfortunate quandary is the frequent instrumental highlight of the record: Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa’s imaginative and often enthralling rhythm-section. ‘Disco//very’ for instance – all the more excellent for its doge-speak title – comes across like Warpaint’s version of Shaking The Habitual, the menacing groove both building and reflecting the vocal bully-circle. Immediately afterwards on ‘Go In’ though, the early intrigue both components provide grows numbing as the song itself goes nowhere, both the cause and effect of strong ideas wasted.
In this vein, the record constantly treads the line between strength and weakness. The subdued ambience of ‘Teese’ teeters on catatonia on ‘CC’, whilst Kokal and Wayman’s soothing vocal melodies which so attract on ‘Drive’ come to elicit snores on ‘Hi’.
It’s oxymoronic rather than entirely self-defeating, but the real frustration is that Warpaint undoubtedly possess all the self-possession, finesse and imagination that promises they’re more than capable of the kind of defining, powerful statement that accompanies the finest self-titled records. For once though, they’ve loosed fire too early. A record of theirs entitled Warpaint should be something. Instead, it’s just something else to listen to.