Girlpool don’t care if they sound messy. They don’t need to crank the distortion on their guitars to nail their points home. They’re a duo from LA but it sounds like there’s more of them, a whole chorus of pissed-off women raking down whatever’s trying to box them in. Their self-titled debut EP is 16 minutes of low-fidelity, thorny rock music that comes off punk even without traditional punk hallmarks. It took me a few listens to realize that it doesn’t have any drums on it.
Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker sing and play with an unvarnished vitality. There’s nothing fancy about Girlpool’s trappings; the band’s guitar and bass tones sound like they could be coming out of a practice amp in somebody’s bedroom, but the grooves they lock into and the harmonies they twine together show just how deeply these two musicians are able to communicate with each other. The songs’ rough edges lend them charm; Girlpool let their lyrics roll out as offhand ruminations, not proclamations on a pedestal. No one is here to show off.
As casual as they sound, these songs cut sharp. “Jane” narrates a story about a dancer punching her harasser right in the mouth, punctuating each verse with high-pitched screams. “You were born for a reason/ Share all your feelings/ If you are a Jane, put your fist up too,” encourage Girlpool. “Plants and Worms” is a sadder number where the way each word is vocally stretched out of shape says as much as its literal meaning. On “Slutmouth”, Tucker and Tividad lament the social and sexual pressures of femininity. “Sometimes I want to be a boy/ Cause I feel like a toy… I don’t want to get fucked by a fucked society/ Cause everywhere I look, someone’s blaming me,” they sing. The lyrics hold onto an almost childlike simplicity, but they drive them in by repeating a clumsy proposition with screeching frustration: “Do you want to make out? I heard you had a slut mouth from the boy down the street.”
There’s almost never enough space for women songwriters to be vulgar, unhinged, and furious. On the EP’s finale “American Beauty”, Tucker and Tividad sing, “Eat me out to American Beauty.” Sure, it’s a song about doin’ it while Kevin Spacey waxes poetic about the essence of existence in the background, but it’s also a moment of much-needed relief after a chain of songs about losing control over your own life. Most sexually charged songs don’t let women take control so explicitly. Girlpool’s forwardness about both their own frustrations and the ways they let off steam from them clear space outside a pointlessly restrictive decorum. This band is rough and mad and gritty, and they don’t need to prove anything else to say exactly what they want.