Thursday 22nd September 2016
Faced as they are with the impenetrable density of ethanol-friendly dance tunes that currently occupy the charts, it seems guitar bands are now being challenged to, if not push for mainstream success, at least affect a sound that is more ‘modern’ than what they have previously felt comfortable with.
And with Heads Up, Warpaint, like many of their contemporaries, have moved to some extent away from the ‘alternative’ and taken on influences from R&B and hip-hop. The post-punk guitars give way to thumping bass and drums; an album highlight, Dre, is itself a tribute to the legendary rap producer, whilst elsewhere there are such nightclub aphorisms as So Good and Don’t Wanna.
Nonetheless, the band embrace lyrics like “you’ve got the moves bang bang baby” with their characteristic sexy, uber-cool, it-girl irony, and there remains in the music their flashes of technical brilliance; the alternating crescendos of the vocals and drums towards the end of Whiteout, the contrasting palette of guitar effects dancing through Don’t Let Go. Mozgawa leads the entire album with complex and driving rhythms that remind the listener why her talents have recently been on loan to a variety of other artists.
Unfortunately, the new sound is still rather monolithic, providing overall much less scope for the experimentation and modulation that some may have found self-indulgent in their previous albums, though to those back bedroom musos amongst us was requisite to their brilliance. And there’s the rub, Heads Up appears to be a step onwards for Warpaint, but one that lands them nonetheless between two stools. Fans of the previous albums may find the new sound comparatively disappointing, whilst the album still does not provide the accessibility perhaps promised to new audiences with the hook-laden, more conventionally structured lead single, New Song. Some brilliant songs to be found here, but in the future Warpaint must consolidate their musical talent with a more purposeful identity if they are to produce a top-notch LP.