The exquisite corpse is a poetic game popularized by the Surrealist school of artists. Participants must contribute lines to a single poem while only seeing part of the previous person’s entry, creating a nonsensical piece which may be accidentally meaningful. Warpaint’s first album, Exquisite Corpse, is not characterized by this disjointed feeling, nor does it achieve accidental profundity, although the tone of the album is surreal in that it is dreamlike and dark.
Warpaint is a three-piece girl band from L.A. The album has six songs, each averaging five minutes. The girls sing in slow harmonies through resonating filters, creating a seductive siren’s call. The music is well played but not terribly remarkable; the instrumentals are stripped drown to raw electric guitar, bass and drums neatly aligning in repetitive looping patterns with a sometimes organ. The simplicity is not a drawback; it creates a folky sound that complements the singing.
Warpaint seems to be plumbing into the melancholy side of the soul on Exquisite Corpse. It’s all a little bit down, a little spooky, mostly due to the singing style and lyrics. “Stars” features the lines “Glow in the darkness/ That’s how we do it/ Just like the stars/ Up on your ceiling/ That put you to sleep at night.” The words are at once sentimental, mysterious, lonely, and strangely confident. I want to know about these lonely, glowing girls. “Billie Holiday” uses lyrics from the Mary Wells song “My Guy.” With the acoustic guitar, strings, altered lyrics, and stylistic differences it stays well away from being a straight cover. The familiar lyrics help make it the most accessible and enjoyable song on the album.
The tempo on Exquisite Corpse is a rather uniform slow plod. It’s fitting for a lullaby or daydream. I would be interested to hear what the girls make after they’ve had their coffee, but this is a cohesive body of work that provides a drift into reverie.