Girlpool: Powerplant – album review
CD / DL / Vinyl
Celebrated Californian duo flesh out their sound without losing any of their eerie vulnerability. The result? A record that’s big, beautiful but free of bombast. Sam Lambeth reviews.
Girlpool’s debut, Before the World Was Big, gave them a niche as bedroom idealists creating music for the forlorn Bandcamp generation. That’s not a criticism – singing together, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, created potent harmonies that had a disconcertingly intimate feeling – they were singing to you, anchored only by dissonant guitar and wandering bass.
For their sophomore album, the duo announced the arrival of percussion. It was a move that could backfire; after all, Girlpool to this point were known for their minimalist magic. But the addition of drummer Miles Winter has not robbed the duo of their unsettling magic, it has only enhanced it – Powerplant is beefed up but bereft of bombast, sounding like a long-lost classic from the mid-90s.
While the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic has been long established, Girlpool bring new energy and tension to songs like Corner Store and 123, which throb and thrash with equal measure. Their ear for melody has also been enhanced, with Kiss and Burn an almost Shins-esque slice of stomping indie rock, while She Goes By is a taut, glacial jangle. It Gets More Blue is one of their finest tracks, a mournful guitar motif giving way to a contemplative guitar crunch and some typical Girlpool wit (“the nihilist tells you that nothing is true / I said I faked global warming just to get close to you”).
Of all the bands to go ‘big’, Girlpool would surely have not been on the list, but by fleshing out their already-established sound, Tucker and Tividad have been able to embellish their trademark vocals with widescreen ambitions.