BEFORE the World Was Big has an existential streak for the 18-year olds whose overwhelming sprint to success, with their bare bones signature sound, has left them bewildered. Here’s their reminiscent package of acceptance as they come to terms with change and take that meaningful search into the very soul of Girlpool. At 25 minutes long, the debut’s a minuscule insight into Cleo Tucker’s and Harmony Tividad’s carefree childhood days.
Their self-titled EP, released last year, was a sulky 15 minute shriek. The pair blasted through tales of sexual freedom littered with Tucker’s unexpected stratospheric screams that would have original riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna gushing with pride. Hostile yet comical songs like Blah, took advice from the riot grrrl elders, with its lyrics spat out with a colourful contempt, appear to be long gone.
Instead, the debut album presents the pairs’ regression from teenage rage to their innocent yesteryears on the West Coast. With Before the World Was Big, the duo has shown they’re more than their 90’s female-fronted influences. They’ve significantly reduced the raw edge by putting the novelty band-aids on those freshly opened teenage wounds.
Opener, Ideal World is the harp to usher in the dream sequence. A steady twang of twinned guitars that conjure up summers hanging on the bleachers, ice cream sodas and sewing patches on jean jackets.
Tucker’s and Tivitad’s slightly jarring, almost uncomfortably high harmonies on the title track embody the album’s youthful spirit and simple structure. A wistful tale layered with climbing guitar and ending with an uncomplimentary round with the heart melting charm of Tucker’s lyrics, “I just miss how it felt standing next to you, wearing matching dresses before the world was big”. Shucks.
Dear Nora is the dreamy postcard written on the road, harnessing the dreamy endless highways and state lines. Set to slurring guitar that could kick back with the ever-blasé Mac Demarco. It’s all too clear they’ve abandoned the steel grip of Sleater Kinney and stepped closer to the unhurried 90’s indie pop of Waxahatchtee, evident in the hushed and melodic acoustic Chinatown.
Girlpool have produced a very cautious debut, but under the surface of the kids’ TV glockenspiel plonks, Cherry Picking reveals a mature side of decision making and future plans, as the pair rant “yes I am picking cherries; I have a hard time staying clean”. But the harsh realities are soon cloaked by a 30 second Kindergarten ramble, stumbling over lyrics like a cutesy Kimya Dawson track.
Girlpool have created a confident debut that defies expectations. Although on the surface they’ve abandoned the feminist, girls-with- guitars formula their boldness to create an album that’s clearly a personal exploration takes pure guts. And what’s more riot grrrl than that?
You need to pick up this album, take it to your old tree house and try not to choke on your gobstopper as you mourn over your lost childhood.
Written for Artrocker