tue 28/05/2024

Warpaint, Brighton Dome | reviews, news & interviews

Warpaint, Brighton Dome

Warpaint, Brighton Dome

Well-regarded California outfit lack a certain something in the live arena

Warpaint daydream of being signed to 4AD Records in the Eighties

The best thing about Warpaint is their rhythm section. The all-female LA quartet have received critical plaudits for both their albums, wisely releasing their latest eponymous collection in the dead zone of January, maximizing media attention (why don’t more bands do this? It was the making of the Scissor Sisters back in 2004). The foursome are determinedly un-showbiz, letting their music do the talking and dealing in tasty power-femme sound-bites.

In this they are admirable but their music, a woozy amalgam of the Cocteau Twins and grunge, lacks actual songs (although there are three catchy ones on the new album). It did not bode well that their admirers often mention them as great background music, as an ambience. However, these same admirers insisted they're great live, which is so often the case.

This is music it would be quite possible to go to sleep to, despite the volume

Back, then, to their rhythm section. Right from the start the eye-catching aspect of Warpaint is the interplay between energized drummer Stella Mozgawa and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg, wriggling about in a white knee-length pinafore dress, her hair in a bun, under the six red lights that overlook the stage. Indeed, it’s also their throb and syncopated groove that makes the band in any way interesting.

Upfront, blond singer-guitarist Emily Kokal and fellow front-woman Theresa Wayman, the latter besuited as if going to a job interview, are “struggling on the presence front” as my wingman, Don Carlton, observes. Neither are big on chat with the audience, in fact they’re the opposite, although there are occasional in-group conflabs that seem faintly exclusive. They may be enjoying themselves but they’re not big on showing it. The audience, however, hardly moving but for a few swayers at the front, seem pleased with the performance. The songs pass by in a haze of morose, if opulent, jangle-rock with Kokal and Wayman’s vocals flitting elegantly into the higher registers amidst it all. If anyone remembers The Cranes, there’s a bit of that going on, although vocally Warpaint are superior.

After a while it occurs to me that this is music it would be quite possible to go to sleep to, despite the volume. Surely not a good thing, although seated crowd members at the back – a much older lot than I’d anticipated – seem soothed. Warpaint dipped into back catalogue, dropping songs such as the Nirvana rewrite “Undertow”, to audience appreciation, alongside newies such as “Biggy” and, possibly their best song, the contagious recent single “Love Is To Die”, a perfect showcase for the Lindberg-Mozgawa dynamic. When the band gun into high gear, channelling The Slits or the Banshees, they briefly light themselves and the place up but there’s not enough of this. Unfortunately, a punky encore cover of “I Feel Love” sounded, as Don pointed out, “as if they’d poured mud all over it” and looked more fun for them than us.

I’m told Warpaint are a good choice of music to work to in the office. So be it, but as a focal point gig experience, their concert lacked oomph.

Overleaf: Watch Warpaint perform the really rather tasty "Love Is To Die"

When the band gun into high gear, channelling The Slits or the Banshees, they briefly light themselves and the place up


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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