Girlpool first caught my eye one random day when I was searching new releases on Spotify the day of their “Before the World Was Big” release in 2015. The two have a lot of stuff going for them that hit my personal taste buds perfectly. They live and breathe punk bluntness (and their album covers are impeccable).
Each member of the band armed with a guitar/bass, Cleo and Harmony sing their melodies together, mostly in unison, with lyrics composed of weird observations about the world and simple lyrical lines that pop out and hammer home the experience of the young creative.
On “Powerplant,” their Anti-Records debut, Girlpool embrace a full rock band sound and keep all the things that made them appealing in the first place front and center. Their sound is biting and unique and the album flows well, with big moments that stick in your brain and lyrical moments both hilarious and extraordinarily well put. Still though, it feels like they have all the parts together, but have yet to perfect how to present them.
My main reoccurring reservation is that their choruses and big moments on the work are too short lived, or not repeated often enough. The title track is relentlessly catchy with a hint of shoegazey bliss, but that kick ass “WORKING BY THE POWERPLANT” moment only happens twice. A bigger offence occurs on “Soup,” which packs a heavy, pummeling chorus that only happens one time.
Now obviously, not all albums are meant to be a bunch of pop songs with catchy choruses, but Girlpool is apt to put together stand-out tracks as showcased by single “It Gets More Blue.” At only 3.5 minutes, this is just about the longest track on the album and the one most listenable outside of the context of the album. In all technicality, the chorus of this tune happens twice, but you get commitment to a verse, pre-chorus, chorus building system, with a bridge to boot. I don’t think every one of their songs should work like this because they seem to be poets first and musicians second in a way, but expanding a couple of those other tracks to include a second chorus might make the album a bit more listenable.
What the band lacks in structure they make up for in lyrics. “The nihilist tells you that nothing is true, I said I faked global warming to get close to you”…enough said? The dry as fuck sarcasm gives the work such a distinct personality, but they also shine in other ways. It feels as though the shorter songs are poems set to music. Reading them over on genius, there’s a lot of contemplation that one can get into, which leads to deeper listening and value beyond the first couple listens.
“123” depicts a bit of emotional labor dynamic between two significant others: “you’re sorry you feel weird in a jubilation dream/And you’re sorry about the load feeling sorry about the load.” “Sorry you feel weird” is such a great take on the person in the relationship who spits out all the stuff they should be saying to a therapist with the hope that their partner can figure their shit out. They understand that they are giving their partner a “load” of work to do, but perhaps that makes things more difficult. “While the moth doesn’t talk but in the dress the holes you saw” perfectly pinpoints the invisible damage that this practice can bring.
“Corner Store” encompasses an astonishing amount of ideas in to one quick tune. At the core, the song is about a relationship that’s not really based in anything. Cleo and Harmony depict how they get caught up in monotony with lines like “Get lost at the corner store picking up things I’ve never seen before” (what corner store items have we never seen before) and “I get stuck on the things I see.”
They also draw parallels between themselves and the “crumbs in a bag in my pocket” with: “Napping on a plastic coated living room.” Like the crumbs in the bag, they feel like they don’t mean anything to their partner, they’re just kind of there and at the end, they repeat their opening idea with their partner getting lost in items at the corner store. It’s a dark, biting take on how relationships form out of two people just holding onto each other for no reason and the song only lasts about 65 seconds.
Girlpool are a fantastic band, but I want to see a bit more work on songwriting. They have such a great poetic language, but it’s time to let those choruses sing a big more. I trust that they have a fantastic work in their future, but I don’t think “Powerplant” quite does the trick.