Warpaint: The Fool

B+

Warpaint

Album: The Fool
Label: Rough Trade

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Despite all evidence to the contrary over the past 30 years, post-punk doesn’t have to be built out of cold, sharp angles. The Fool, the full-length debut by Los Angeles’ Warpaint, coasts instead on a humid, hazy, oozing pulse that’s less ice age and more malarial swamp. With a torpid and feverish dreaminess, the all-female quartet stretches skeletal dirges into tribal celebrations of night, death, and revenge: “Warpaint” lopes along with a ceremonial air as dark and grave as Joy Division’s circa Closer, and “Majesty” echoes with the sweet, minimal menace of Celebration (minus that band’s cartoonishness). But there’s also tenderness to songs like “Shadows,” a tone-poem of urban unease that mates lonely whispers with a heart-tripping rhythm. The trance is broken briefly by “Baby,” a Cat Power-like indie-folk confessional that belongs on a solo album, and “Bees” starts out with a dizzying balance of digitized snare and sludgy low end before succumbing to a clutter of overprocessed drums and bass. Ultimately, though, it’s the album's standout track “Undertow” that defines The Fool. “Now I’ve got you in the undertow,” chants singer-guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman in an almost predatory harmony. As if they needed to spell it out.

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