Where Every Breath Transpires
If I’ve got one piece of advice for you, it’s this – don’t get old. You might not think so now, my little hipster friend, but stick around long enough and pretty soon musical déjà vu will haunt your waking hours as everything begins to sound like something else, until your over-riding musical impulse will be one of “haven’t we been here before?” And so it was initially for me and Warpaint, not only in terms of the similarities I heard throughout their album The Fool to what I suppose I have to call the music of my youth (a bit of Liz Fraser here, a smidgen of Ride there, a whole dollop of Throwing Muses all over the place), but also to my own (ultimately failed) experience of being in a loosely indie band 20 years ago. The venue, the equipment (Fender Jaguars, Vox amps, Ampeg bass bins – the more things change, the more they stay the same), even the nature of the songs (some good ideas trailing off, unable to bear the weight of their expectations) – all of this launched me back two decades to a time when music (or more specifically being in a band) was the be all and end all, and it was this unwelcome nostalgia that was the source of my misgivings.
Personal déjà vu aside, for a moment as I watched this band I could hear the voice of the guy I knew at school once who said with all the sage wisdom of a 17 year old back in 1987 that “there’s no such thing as new music, only combinations of stuff that’s gone before”. The “pop will eat itself” argument is so old there’s no point rehashing it here, but it would be easy to not only hear no end of “all our Indie yesterdays” with Warpaint, but also look at Stella Mozgawa’s wonderfully retro hair or Theresa Wayman’s near-perfect physical impersonation of Grace Slick and begin to think we’re simply going around the block again for the benefit of a generation who never caught it first (or even second) time around. But being easy doesn’t always make something right, and that was certainly the case here, for I was mightily impressed by Warpaint, and would urge you to try and catch them some time soon.
Why? Well for me it wasn’t necessarily the songs (although as I’ve intimated above, given a bit of grunt they become things of powerful, not just ethereal, beauty) or the extremely too-cool-for-you attitude on display (Emily Kokal’s stage presence is so laid back that it could be mistaken for not even trying, but this misapprehension was blown out of the water by an absolutely incredible solo version of ‘Baby’) that won my vote. No, it was the fact that they were clearly having a good time doing what they do that impressed me, and not in a “we really don’t care if the audience is there” sort of way you sometimes get with bands live (my experience of Fleet Foxes at the Leeds Academy the other year being a prime case in point), since Wayman’s stating “you’re the best audience we’ve had” reflected the obvious connection made with those of us out in the dark. And maybe this is the real thing that all of us ageing and curmudgeonly music fans should focus on – you might have been there, done that, and ingested the pharmaceuticals, but are you having a good time right now? If not, stop being so grumpy, or leave it to those who are, because there are plenty of better things you could be doing with your time…