Girlpool // Girlpool
Big Joy Records
Recommended Track: Plants & Worms
Girlpool’s debut EP is a delight from start to finish, though anyone expecting sweetness and light is in for a well-deserved punch to the gut.
All seven songs here brim with the unrepressed anger and frustration that’s been lacking in much female-made music of recent years. It’s all in there, from the pottymouthed complaints about sexual double standards on “Slutmouth” to the straight up kiss-off of “Blah Blah Blah,” wherein the ladies tell off a dude trying to play two ends against each other by reducing his ham-handed masculine treachery to Valley Girl onomatopoeia.
Though incredibly catchy and overall memorable, the songs are musically quite skeletal–deliberately, I think. With only a guitar and bass accompanying Cleo and Harmony’s loud and shouty vocals, there’s a rawness about the EP that is all business: no makeup, no ribbons, no fooling. Because for Girlpool, it’s not about the music so much as the message. The instrumentation acts as a hanger for the lyrics, which are delivered forthrightly and sit right in the front of the mix so you don’t miss a word. It works because Girlpool have an excellent grasp of phrasing, veering from snotty teen girl tones to muted harmonies, and a smarty-pants way of bridging their inner and outer worlds. “Your pain is an endless cycle/ The globe is a spinning rifle” they state on the melancholy “Plants & Worms,” setting up a decidedly black-and-white feminist framework before confessing, “It’s hard to see things simply/ When my thoughts are a boat within me.”
Sex is a huge theme throughout the EP, most pointedly fear of sexual exploitation, which the girls combat with anger and nonchalance, as if throwing the first punch or pretending they don’t care will somehow save them from further pain. Take final track “American Beauty,” wherein Girlpool exhort their lover du jour to “eat me out to American Beauty,” a film about the sexual exploitation of a teenage girl dressed up in the attire of white male suburban malaise–-put that in your Ph.D thesis, nerds. Or “Love Spell,” a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it tune wherein the band insists that “everything’s fine” when their breathless, flat vocals make it clear that the opposite is the case. And yet, Girlpool aren’t afraid to lay bare their emotional vulnerability as on “Paint Me Colors”: “I hid the key/Just in case you wanted me/ cuz it’s Saturday night.”
In a musical culture where so many “girl” bands make drastic attempts to downplay the general difficulty of being female in a world that’s stacked against women, it’s more than refreshing to hear a pair of girls (only two!) not only calling out sexism but also revealing their own insecurities without fear. It’s brave and strong and true. There’s not a single word on this record that rings emotionally false, perhaps the EP’s greatest accomplishment.