Los Angeles duo ‘Girlpool’ are uncompromising and undeterred by the prospect of being shunned by the mainstream in the wake of their occasionally provocative and blunt lyrics. The two piece use nothing more than a guitar (Cleo Tucker), bass (Harmony Tividad), and their voices. They do so precariously, yet proficiently, and I say precariously having remembered how I felt upon hearing the first track on the EP – ‘Blah Blah Blah’, and really struggling not to rip my headphones from my ears – but the more time one gives this record, the more one understands it is not designed to be a treat for the ears, at least I hope not.
We are immediately introduced to the strong female foundation that is pivotal to the entire EP. ‘Blah Blah Blah’ sets the lyrical tone of the record and tells of a girl who is no longer willing to be used by her partner. Accompanied by stripped back and appropriately simple instrumentation (featuring a quirky guitar solo), this track is a real test that you’d do well to pass.
‘Paint Me Colours’ sees the tempo diminish and the tone become desperately melancholy, and borders on being a sadcore anthem. Although the tempo does pick up nearer the tracks conclusion, the bleak bass riff that sets the song off does an excellent job of lowering morale through it’s compelling monotony. Vocal harmonies give depth to a track that would otherwise struggle to keep the listener awake.
Moving on, the record does gain some momentum, with ‘Plants and Worms’ comprising of some decidedly pleasant chords and acoustic sounds. Lyrically however, we are greeted by yet more gloomy commentary – “I’m uncomfortable looking in the mirror”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for dreariness here and there – Radiohead have worked wonders with it – but relentlessly dreary lyrics combined with equally sombre music I find challenging to get my head around.
‘Jane’ however is refreshing in its relative positivity, telling the story of a girl who stood up to her tormentor named Tommy. The theme of women veering from their societal norms is continued in ‘Slutmouth’, which is sung from the point of view of a girl who is not comfortable conforming or doing what is expected of her – “I go to school every day just to be made a housewife one day”, an appropriate statement given current public issues surrounding gender equality.
The final track entitled ‘American Beauty’ is a welcome stimulation, and is the only track likely to stick in the mind of the listener, thanks largely to it’s chorus, “It’s not enough to watch a movie, eat me out to American Beauty” is a line not easily forgotten. The repetitive chords continue throughout and we are again reminded that the protagonist of this song is not the suppressed and weak woman that she feels she is expected to be, “If you’re lucky I’ll hold you tight”.
Despite ending on a high, this record struggles to stimulate any musical fire inside the listener, or make many groundbreaking and thought provoking statements on women or the lives of young people, BUT I can say with confidence that this strangled outcry is exactly what Girlpool intended when they put the record together.