I love Girlpool. I really do. Why do I love them so much? Other than the fact that they are so freaking cool, it might be something to do with the defiant yet openly childlike quality of their lyrics that I can identify with. (I’m having an ongoing existential crisis, OK? And yes, they’re 18 and 19. I’m almost 30. Whatever.)
The LA post-punk duo’s debut album Before the World Was Big is released on June 1st via Wichita Recordings, and it is really something special. In typical punk style Girlpool don’t tend to labour their point. Ten songs of short and sweet brilliance feature, during some of which it feels as though you could be at an intimate DIY gig in the Smell – the venue in which Cleo and Harmony first met.
The pair have described the LP as being foremost “a search for identity.” Singing about gender, sexuality and finding yourself, the album tells the story of the transitional period between adolescence and adulthood. A difficult and at times mind-bending experience for us all, the simplicity and honesty of their introspective lyrics ring true throughout this record.
The stringent vocal harmonies and minimalist plucking of opening track ‘Ideal World’ is a perfect introduction to the record and it’s lo-fi musings. The first words uttered by Cleo and Harmony are a forebear for the tone of the album: “I thought I found myself today / No one’s noticed, things are OK.” (Side note: I can’t believe I’m about to compare Girlpool to Britney Spears but the sentiment of this track puts me in mind of a really brilliant version of ‘I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman.’ Sorry about that).
Perhaps the most bittersweet of the bunch, title track ‘Before The World Was Big’ tells the story of outgrowing your home town and perhaps, yourself. The song begins with childlike plonking on a toy xylophone A nostalgic sound, the heartbreaking lyrics purvey a sense of longing: “I just miss how it felt standing next to you / wearing matching dresses before the world was big.”
One of my favourite tracks, the wistful ‘Cherry Picking’, begins with muted instrumentation and slowly progresses to melodic, angst inducing riffs, the volume increasing as the track goes on. Harmonious vocals start of soft and regretful, developing into raw and loud.
‘City Bus’ is another highlight. More anthemic sounding than the rest, the fuzz in the background causes my heart to swell in its cage. The barely there tone of ‘Pretty’ and the muted reverb in the background add depth to the track and accentuate the childlike lyrics and tender harmonies. The penultimate song ‘Emily’, presumably about a once-close, now-distant friend, builds up to a crescendo of raw emotion that pleads, “I’m still here, remember me, Emily.”
The melancholy finale comes in the brilliant form of ‘I Like That You Can See It.’ The ‘it’ in the title refers to a ‘nervous aching’ which pours out of the body. As well as the end of the LP, it seems to mark the next stage in their journey to adulthood. “And I think it’s kind of crazy that I’m trying everything / Soft hands on my face / And I’m feeling nothing.”
What makes Girlpool so special is the inexplicable, and, one presumes, inextricable, bond that the duo clearly have. Cleo and Harmony feed off of one another, both equally emotionally engrossed in the music and the moment. Their two part euphonies are at times beautiful, at times punk perfect, and always gloriously unrehearsed sounding. The louder, defiant vibes of last year’s ‘Slutmouth’ and ‘Blah Blah Blah’ are fairly absent, with this record taking on a more gentle punk tone. Reflective and exploratory, it fills me with nostalgia for my distant adolescence.
While grappling with the anxieties that come with growing up in the 21st Century can be difficult, it is certainly made easier when you have a “best friend who completely and totally gets you” as said by Harmony in their short YouTube documentary. I want to join their gang.
Cleo and Harmony, see you in Glasgow this September. Be prepared for some serious fan-girling.
- Ideal World
- Dear Nora
- Before The World Was Big
- China Town
- Cherry Picking
- Magnifying Glass
- City Bus
- I Like That You Can See It
UK Tour Dates
4 – Bristol @ Exchange
6 – End Of The Road Festival, Dorset
8 – Manchester @ Deaf Institute
9 – Glasgow @ Broadcast
10 – Leeds @ Brudenell Social Club
11 – Birmingham @ Hare And Hounds
12 – Bestival, Isle of Wight
14 – Brighton @ The Hope
15 London @ The Scala