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Warpaint - The Fool

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Artist: Warpaint

Album: The Fool

Label: Rough Trade

Review date: Oct. 26, 2010

I’m all for hearing women making music as ‘musicians, period,’ and all for championing that moment in every musically-inclined female’s existence when the rhythm finally hits her with the inevitable: “This is what speaks to me! And I can and will do this, better and different than any man!" Without these once in-a-lifetime thunderbolts and serious tenacity on their parts, we would never have heard the worlds of artists like Billie Holiday, Diamanda Galas or The Slits (R.I.P. Ari Up).

Are Warpaint young and female? Yes, and all power to them. But the space-dub rhythms and occasional guitar glimmer on The Fool’s opening song, “Set Your Arms Down," are where any similarity to originators like The Slits’ contemptuous, paradigm-shifting roar begins and ends. Where The Slits were willfully psychotic by jumping right into the mosh pit of musicality, muddying it all up, and shakin’ it wherever wild (underage) women had always feared to stomp, Warpaint are mere wallflowers, unsteady at taking up more room than they feel they ought to do.

Wistful swirls of girl-group vocals layer and curl around tenuous stabs at Pulsallama-like polyrhythms, but there is no real raw body politic, no emotional urge or conviction truly laid bare until The Fool’s two darkest — and simplest — compositions, “Baby” and "Majesty."

Warpaint certainly aren’t making sharp noises about heroin or shoplifting or forced mutilation here, instead jangling along for nearly five minutes on every cut about broken hearts and not taking it anymore. The Fool brims with potential for something more substantial, but never confronts those depths. And to be honest, if your first heartbreak only musters a lilting little ballad like "Baby," then you’re better off capitalizing on the here-and-now buzzband mileage than try to make a career of it.

At the end of my day, Warpaint are just another forgettable four-piece on the same forlorn sea-to-sky beach as Best Coast, Pocahaunted, even a less spiky Tegan and Sara. And maybe that is part and plan of the women’s shy allure, the mysterious ones who ride the wave better than most by never completely giving their all.

By Lorrie Edmonds

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