Warpaint, Scala, London
Wednesday 03 November 2010
Warpaint walk on stage to a room full of expectation: it has been a big year for the all-girl quartet from Los Angeles. Despite forming six years ago, the past 12 months have seen the online music community put the band on the metaphorical pedestal that comes with being just that pretty and just that good.
They're playing to support the release of their much-lauded debut album, The Fool, and as so often happens when a hyped band on the cusp of stardom plays a venue which they've probably outgrown, it is a crushing sweatbox inside.
Their music, a sort of gothic, woozy rock, is winding and layered and shifting. Among the murky bass and sometimes frazzled guitars come ethereal harmonies and dreamy melodies.
There are plenty of beautiful moments, such as "Undertow", the hypnotic "Shadows" and the song that made people really start to take notice of them, "Elephants". We also get a stunning performance of "Billie Holiday", a strange hybrid that consists of the refrain from the Motown hit "My Guy" and a spelling out of Holiday's name. It is what the Sirens' song might have sounded like.
Emily Kokal, the lead vocalist, has an angelic voice that hints at menace and Jenny Lee Lindberg is entrancing, playing the bass with her eyes closed in the centre of the stage. But at times it just gets a bit, well, boring, almost as if they're playing out a film score. It soon becomes apparent that they need a few more stand-out songs.
Listening to the album, which features mixes from Siouxsie Sioux and Primal Scream collaborator Andrew Weatherall, this slight sense of ennui never really sets in.
Still, to prove that they really don't care what anyone thinks anyway, by the end of the set the haunting sirens have fallen off their pedestal, and are doing stupid dances and falling down on stage laughing. Playing the fool.
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