Everything starts somewhere and nothing stays the same. Both of these observations are born out on the new Girlpool album, 'Powerplant'. Although only the band's second full length album it feels more like their 'difficult third'; it certainly sounds like a third incarnation. The band themselves have said they've wanted to be "more courageous and mature." The sometimes rather surprising result is their new twelve track album.
Transition can be a difficult thing. Losing your youthful 'couldn't give a damn', petulant, nonchalance as it makes way for a more considered, thoughtful and accommodating disposition manifests itself in different ways. For Girlpool, musically at any rate, this means that the snarly slacker has grown up. There are (It has to be said a little regrettably) no new slices of 'Blah, Blah, Blah', 'Jane' or 'American Beauty'. What we get instead is what was hinted at on some of their debut album, 'Before The World Was Big'. The musical soundscape explored on 'Cut Your Bangs', 'Chinatown' and 'Crowded Stranger' has been developed and expanded to produce a fuller, more polished sound.
'123' kicks off the album and almost immediately change is afoot. Amongst the swirling jangle of guitars and more refined vocal (For Girlpool) drums have been added to the mix. The inclusion of percussion on the album, as Cleo and Harmony wanted to "expand" their sound, is provided by new band member Miles Wintner. The addition to the line-up gives the band an added dimension and acts as a natural progression in the, so far relatively short, life of Girlpool. '123' however is only a glimpse at how they, and their sound, have developed.
The title track of the new album sees the band in a happier, lighter, mood. Angst, anger and attitude make way for a somewhat sunnier temperament; we even have the unexpected introduction of a vaudevillian piano into the mix. 'Kiss and Burn' too is blessed with a breezy summery make-up. High harmonies underscored by revolving riffs get closer to Laura Veirs than the Girlpool of old (Old Girlpool being all of three years ago!)
Girlpool have seemingly become better at the more considered and contemplative on their new record as well. The brooding, 'Sleepless', has the harmonised vocal largely to the fore as the reflective lyric is delivered, "I live in a gallery that no one's ever seen, sometimes all the golden fruit falls down on top of me". Close out track, 'Static Somewhere', the longest track on the LP coming in at a whopping 3m39s (This is long for Girlpool), is also a reflective gem; slow building, occasionally interspersed with magnificent blasts of fuzzy guitar. If you didn't know better you'd think this was a Breeders track.
Where 'Powerplant' really comes into its own however, is where it almost completely sheds the recognisable past of the band altogether. The sweet laid back, layered harmonies of 'It Gets More Blue', for instance, are set in glorious confrontation to brilliant bursts of guitar thrashed in raging anger. It's a symbiosis of sorts, a yin and yang of the angelic and demonic and it works very well. Similarly hewn is the more melancholic musing of 'Soup' where the intermittent guitar riffs energise the disassociated vocal. When the two polar opposites of the light and breezy, throwaway, detached vocal meets the most frenzied mania in the form of the biggest blasts of scuzzy, squally guitar is in the fantastic but short 'Corner Store'. All of the elements that now constitute Girlpool come together here in an undoubted album highlight.
'Powerplant' is grown up Girlpool, it's an album of transitioning into a fully formed, fully functioning band. (Unfortunately) No one stays young forever but that doesn't mean your former cocky swagger can't turn into a confident artistic statement that's every bit as creative and entertaining.
Watch the video for the title track Powerplant:
Official Site -
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.