It’s always interesting when a band as collaborative as Warpaint splinters out into its component solo parts; seeing what elements of the band’s shared sound are retained, which new ones are added and which are discarded when its members stray from the flock.
Sometimes an artist’s voice can emerge with a far more clear and direct form when it no longer has to jostle for space with other egos and styles (see Bjork, Thurston Moore and Frank Ocean), at other times it can falter alone in this newly expanded space, ending up flailing around frantically awaiting accompaniment or desperately fleeing back to the familiar and settling for a pale imitation of their original band’s sound (see Joe Strummer, Emma Bunton and all of the guys in KISS).
‘LoveLaws’, the debut record from Warpaint’s Theresa ‘TT’ Wayman, is not the first extra-curricular release from the band’s camp. That honour goes to Jenny Lee ‘jennylee’ Lindberg with 2015’s ‘right on!’, in which the bassist took her sound in a nominally more gothic direction without ever really managing to pitch her tent outside the Warpaint gazebo. The album was interesting, but ultimately no-one’s going to reach for that record over ‘Heads Up’ or ‘Warpaint’, as it didn’t give the listener a convincing glimpse of Jenny Lee beyond the woman who plays bass in Warpaint.
As the more instantly recognisable frontwoman and lead singer of her band, TT has an even greater challenge in setting out her stall without it just sounding like a lo-tech echo of her group’s regular output. But, though there are a couple of tracks on ‘LoveLaws’ that sound as though they could be rejected Warpaint demos, for the most part it stands up surprisingly steadily on its own two legs.
This is due in no small part to TT’s decision to write about her personal life with a frankness that would have been out of place on a more enigmatic Warpaint record. Take recent single ‘I’ve Been Fine’, her bittersweet lament to a sex life sacrificed on the twin altars of touring and childcare, or her rejection of the notion that love should be an ‘adventure’ on the unconventional ‘Safe’. Underneath her deceptively quiet, timid voice there is a brave honesty, a willingness to directly discuss the thoughts that prey on a thirty something single mother adrift on the unpredictable and time-consuming waters of the music business.
The intimacy of the record is enhanced by TT’s decision to largely stick to her own electronic dabblings rather than cramming her record full of guest musicians. The trade off is that much of the music itself could almost be mistaken for the work of your run of the mill Beach House-wannabe pouring their aching heart into a Soundcloud account (hello ‘Love Leaks’).
But, thanks to Wayman’s growing experience incorporating electronic elements into her band’s albums since their excellent sophomore effort, she’s becoming a dab hand at dropping the guitar and building the kind of thickly-layered slabs of atmospheric electronica that Thom Yorke has spent the last decade of his career desperately trying to harpoon. Just listen to the deep house dance bells that ring through ‘The Dream’ and remember that this is no cross-genre hookup with some lesser Hyperdub producer, just TT trying to convey the ideas that swim around her head with minimum interference from outside forces.
The resulting work is cracked but compelling, a real warts and all record that slaloms its way between moments of breathtaking romance and ugly reality. Occasionally its composition feels scrappy or unfinished, but this doesn’t particularly mar the experience of listening to it. Ultimately ‘LoveLaws’ is more of a messy entry scrawled across the pages of a personal diary than it is a pristine, thought-out postcard from your girls in Warpaint. Hopefully this means it should last on it’s own, rather than just being an intriguing stopgap between their albums proper.
Words: Josh Gray
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