Written By: Andrew Sedo
Los Angeles punk-esque duet Girlpool has grown. Now a trio, adding a drummer to a traditionally primordial setup was a decidedly bold move for purists known to focus on powerful arrangements and strangely personal lyrics. Gone are their references to proper nouns and inside jokes they know listeners could never get. Original members Harmony Tavidad, and Cleo Tucker instead usher in a new era of delicate percussion coupled with lovably witty one liners, and remnants of the intensely personal.
Nowhere is this more evident than Powerplant’s second track “Sleepless”, where soft head-banging cacophony lurks just below sublime correspondence between Girlpool’s two stars. The next track “Corner Store” superimposes a simple trip to the local shop with a glittering metallic feedback interlude as lyrics “you got lost at the corner store / picking up things I’ve never seen before,” bring us softly back to reality. Whereas, the baseline driven “High Rise” is an irresistible throwback to the group’s history as a no-holds-barred two piece. Throughout we see a songwriting shift from unknown names and the almost too personal, to the perfectly esoteric. On “Soup” Girlpool tag-teams the closing lyrics “Crawl into the birdcage / Become a cartoon / Cuz’ all of the flowers / Are too much for you” as crunchy grunge riffs punch through the background. It’s a notedly strange ending for a song that began with someone disposing of old soup.
Girlpool’s idealistic shift has left us no more aware of their intended subject matter, but has given us more to ponder instead of instantly giving up at the first sign of an “in-joke.” “It Gets More Blue” features the decidedly sweet, yet macabre “The Nihilist tells me that nothing is true / I said I faked Global warming just to get next to… / you!” again coupling stinging irony, with heartfelt sincerity.
This is the true power source of Powerplant. It makes something you’ve heard before, feel new. By adding a drummer, Tavidad and Tucker lost a feature that made them unique, but picked up a barely-there subsurface bump that helps them truly explode. In the midst of the traditional punkish din, two sounds become one. The two voices might as well be one narrator hovering omnisciently above the entire album.
The closing “Static Somewhere” helps illustrate these contradictions of adaptation with the lyric “Tell me you are here / I know I’ll find you / Static somewhere.” Searching, changing, hoping, and remaining the same are all equal parts of Girlpool’s ethos, and it’s the group’s ability to adopt the stereotypical set, that’s given them true power to supersede genre norms and whispers of gimmickry. Powerplant is less a coming of age than a mathematical proof (or a rebellious shout), that, “addition by subtraction”, is simply a silly cliche.