Girlpool's Harmony and Cleo Grow Up on New Sophisticated Album Powerplant
Updated: Mar 25, 2020
The Berkeley B-Side
“1, 2, 3 will you list it off to me? How you’re sorry you feel weird in a jubilation dream” is what the Girlpool girls whisper at the top of their third full-length — and, of course, still wonderfully written — album Powerplant (2017). The band immediately sounds different from their previous work, probably because of the simple drums that back Harmony and Cleo’s bass and guitar playing. In fact, this album marks Girlpool’s transition into a full band: complete with drums, backup guitar, and occasional piano. For some of their long time fans like myself, this news is a little worrisome — part of what I liked so much about them was their quaint charm and simple instrumentals. However, this album proves that the band backing Harmony and Cleo should be taken as great news for the band, resulting in a product that feels like Girlpool’s old stuff colored in with Nirvana-type grunge and distortion. Though I was never bothered by the band’s immaturity before, I can’t help but describe this album as feeling much more finished with it’s new fleshed-out, and more adult, sound. Putting out an album that manages to be more mature while still holding onto their angst-filled aesthetic, our Girlpool girls have finally grown up.
Of course the duo’s charming falsetto vocals remain, and their delightfully domestic and observational songwriting is still very present with lines like “looking at the mess I made and staring at the counter” on track 4, “Your Heart.” The album doesn’t necessarily have a clear stylistic arc, rotating between bass-driven tracks like “Static Somewhere,” charming riffs like the piano line on title track “Powerplant,” and rotating blue notes through almost folky tunes like “Corner Store.” The album even reaches some pretty sinister points tonally on songs like “Soup,” which is a welcome surprise for those of us who tend to really enjoy the darker music of the garage-punk duo. This also means the album never has any distinctive lull either, staying consistently interesting and pleasing without having a bunch of skippable songs in the middle like so many records coming out in this genre often do. The songs’ sections even tend to alternate between angsty belting choruses and whispering verses, capturing vivid emotion and mature intimacy all at once.
Overall, the album I was so hesitant about is better than anyone expected, full of sing-along jams and introspective morning tunes that will definitely be pushing me through the monotonous days of summer. It’s exciting to think how this growth in development for Girlpool will manifest on stage too, with their tour in support of the album starting this month. Overall, Powerplant is definitely worth a listen, and a gratifying evolution for our favorite childish folk-punk band.
Written by Veronica Irwin
Photo by Alice Baxley
The Berkeley B-Side Link: https://berkeleybside.com/girlpools-harmony-and-cleo-grow-up-on-new-sophisticated-album-powerplant/