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The Fool Tom Hawking , November 12th, 2010 11:55

For the latest celebrity-endorsed blog sensation, and an allegedly "experimental art rock band" to boot, Warpaint make curiously inscrutable music. On the basis of this debut album, at least – a record to which they've apparently been working up for six years, making them an embodiment of the music industry cliché that overnight success rarely comes overnight – they're neither particularly experimental nor really art rock-influenced. What they are is harder to pinpoint.

This is a strangely blank, faceless album. It's pretty, sure. It's well-recorded and multi-layered, full of harmonies and melodies that catch the ear. But it evades engagement. It's not a record that connects with the listener. It's not terrible, it's not great, it just... is.

The best songs here are the most direct ones – the faintly ominous 'Baby', for instance, which begins with the lines "Don't you call anybody else 'baby'/Cos I'm your baby still", and is the closest any song on the album comes to any sort of open emotional expression. Then there's first single 'Undertow', which lifts the chorus melody from Nirvana's 'Polly' and recasts it as snappy riposte to... whom? A former lover, perhaps? As ever with this record, meaning is difficult to grasp. Still, it's a great song, uncoiling itself languorously over the course of nearly six minutes and never overstaying its welcome.

At other times, though, the band's sound drifts off into complete abstraction, and it's at this point that you find your attention wandering. 'Composure', 'Majesty', 'Lissie's Heart Murmur'... These songs drift by in a haze of reverb and harmonies, one blending into another. Emily Kokal told the Interview a while back that you're meant to listen to this album stoned, and at times, listening to it feels like being stoned – that curiously claustrophobic feeling you get, sitting in a room that seems smaller than it was a couple of minutes ago, and all of a sudden you're thinking about something else and a new song has started... or wait, is it still the same song?

As a whole, The Fool is a strange album, one that hints at depths below the melodic surface, but ultimately keeps those depths guarded. It feels consistently introverted and self-absorbed – and the latter adjective isn't meant in a pejorative sense, more that it's almost like you've come across a tape Warpaint made for themselves and themselves only. Whether this is beguiling or frustrating is up to the individual listener.