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Girlpool – Before the World Was Big

TARA CARLIN discusses whether Girlpool’s eagerly awaited debut LP lives up to its hype.

Photo: Tim Griffin
Photo: Tim Griffin

Success really can occur overnight for some artists. Girlpool was formed by Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker when they were only 17 and 18; having only been active for two years, the duo have already released a much-anticipated LP, Before the World Was Big. Their rapid success belies how little time has passed since they broke out of Los Angeles’ underground indie scene.

For more of an idea of their sound, think riot grrrl meets the Juno soundtrack. Before the World Was Big is centred around familiar themes which recur in indie music such as the anxiety of romance, boredom and teenage angst. What’s wrong with keeping it simple by exploring the woes of growing up? Girlpool certainly know their subject material, and they sing about it damn well. They are also honest about the dilemmas of adult freedom versus childhood security – in fact, the LP’s core is formed around that difficult transition from innocence to experience.

Photo: www.stereogum.com
Photo: www.stereogum.com

In ‘Chinatown’, Tividad and Tucker remind us of the rapid pace of time when they ask: “Do you feel restless when you realize you’re alive?” The record they’ve made certainly has an intense purpose, as Tucker told Pitchfork: “We wanted something that was honest and straightforward. We both wanted to be super vulnerable … Because of the stripped down nature of our music, if one of us messes up, it’s incredibly noticeable. We’re not trying to hide.”

Indeed, the record’s tone is stripped down, honest and youthful. The melodies may appear simple on the surface, but it is this simplicity that makes their songs so mesmerising. It doesn’t even feel as if anything is missing in this sense; it took a second listening to notice that the band use no drums. There is almost a chant-like style to the vocals, as heard on opening track ‘Ideal World’, in which they sing in unison as if inviting the listener to lament an share in their similar experiences.

Although the lyrics are simple in expression, they are constantly used as an opportunity to unite the theme of age versus youth. The interlude Magnifying Glass’, although only forty seconds long, intriguingly depicts the confinement of youth, when one feels they are constantly under the magnifying glass of authority. Likewise, ‘Before The World Was Big’ explores the longing and nostalgia for lost innocence “before the world was big”, on what is arguably the LP’s most crucial song. The duo sing of a journey endured “a million billion trillion times” in a way that is sweetly hyperbolic, yet rebellious and full of angst.

A still from Girlpool's music video for 'Blah Blah Blah', www.stereogum.com
A still from Girlpool’s music video for ‘Blah Blah Blah’, www.stereogum.com

Before the World Was Big manages to make a bold statement without kicking and screaming in the process. Tividad and Tucker’s simple style and revealing tone are part of its raw, alluring DIY charm. This is a promising debut release; it is clearly honest and sincere, which only leads us to anticipate great things to come from Girlpool.

8/10

Before the World Was Big was released on 2 June 2015 by Wichita Records.

CategoriesMusic Tara Carlin