warpaint-exquisiteThe Hollywood Hills are a strange place. High above the wide avenues and endless ribbons of freeway criss-crossing Los Angeles and its orange-yellowy pall of smog, you can almost breathe. As the streets narrow and curl unpredictably around cottages and thickets of ivy, you’re somehow reminded more of meandering cowpaths in Cornwall than jewel-encrusted parkways of the rich and famous. Except that in Cornwall, George Harrison was never obliged to stay up late waiting for a lost friend to find him in Blue Jay Way. Nor did Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks disappear into a sandbox song cycle.Something of the mystery and narcotic wooziness of a twilit evening in the Hills pervades Exquisite Corpse, the fine debut EP by Los Angeles quartet Warpaint. Three women—Jenny Lee Lindberg, Emily Kokal, and Theresa Wayman—share the band’s beguiling vocal presence, blending into each other in an off-kilter harmony that suggests a slightly Lynchian feeling of taking a wrong turn off Mulholland Drive. ‘Billie Holiday,’ the record’s centerpiece, would seem to embody the surrealist parlour game alluded to in the EP’s title, melting down the bouncy R&B of Mary Wells’ 1964 Motown smash ‘My Guy’ and recasting its lyrics in a slow-burning psychedelic haze of the band’s own creation. John Frusciante (who mixed the record and is a notable Hills resident himself) plays Mellotron on the track, underlining lines like “nothing you can do can make me untrue to my guy” such that they sound less like sweetly devoted romance and more like plainly sinister obsession.‘Billie Holiday’ and the drowsily melodic gems ‘Stars’ and ‘Burgundy’ contribute to a generally soporific mood on Exquisite Corpse, though the urgent riffs of ‘Elephants’ also demonstrate the band’s ability to convincingly get out of bed when they need to. At any pace, Warpaint show an appreciation for atmospheric detail, a delight in lingering on bent chords or turns of harmonically strange phrasing. This is the secret of the EP’s enveloping success--and yet it can also be a dangerous weakness for a band with such obvious pop instincts. ‘Beetles,’ for example, nearly drowns in a jam session that inflates the song well past the six-minute mark; such bloat on a debut EP leads one to suspect, fairly or not, that four songs into their young career, Warpaint are already out of ideas. While the twists and turns of Exquisite Corpse provide enough reasons to believe that this is not so, a little pop concision could go a long way with this promising band.

Buy the EP from Amazon | [itunes link="http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/krimson/id328941395?uo=4" title="Warpaint – Exquisite Corpse" text="iTunes"]