Zachary Cole Smith has overcome a multitude of problems to make this intensely powerful album
Live Review: Warpaint/Twin Shadow/The Neat
O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, 21st February
There’s too much angst-ridden aggression etched on the faces of The Neat for them to resemble bookworms, but the Hull boys were clearly swotting at the front of the class when Mark E Smith delivered his lecture on the fundamental ‘three Rs’ of post-punk: repetition, repetition and repetition. Never tedium, mind – it’s all taut-as-wire riffs and drums that bounce off your skull like a steel toe-cap.
Tonight’s history lesson doesn’t end with them, though, for up next is Twin Shadow. Despite slouching onto the stage with a quiff that’s been so stiffly starched it wouldn’t look out of place in The Jetsons, George Lewis Jr is clearly a figure who spent many an afternoon poring over the dust-covered shelves of his local record emporium. Even in a booze-sodden room in west London, ‘Castles In The Snow’ remains a perfect piece of nostalgic dream-pop, and no matter how sticky the floor with the residue of nefarious substances, Lewis’ sigh of “you’re my favourite daydream” remains unblemished.
There are no twinkling reassurances present in Warpaint’s set; this evening they seem even more wintry and desolate than they do on record. Never renowned for being the most garrulous bunch, they keep between-song patter to a minimum, aside from a few muttered introductions. The likes of ‘Set Your Arms Down’ and ‘Undertow’, meanwhile, feel almost unbearably brittle, like silky strands of gossamer that could snap under the slightest pressure.
There are lighter moments which peer from the gloom – in particular, Stella Mozgawa’s brief dance behind her drum kit is less LA hipster and more dad-at-a-disco jigging. But it’s not frivolity that made us fall in love with them; it’s the way they grow stronger, rather than sag under their own great dramatic tension. And as Emily Kokal gives her “word of honour to be faithful” on the breathy, Cat Power-like ‘Billie Holiday’, it’s not hard to remember why we took our own vows of devotion to Warpaint not so long ago.
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