Originally from LA, but now based in Philadelphia, Girlpool (Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker) have accrued quite the fan base. About to begin a summer tour in the UK, the guitar-bass duo demonstrate how a solid EP can still translate into professional success.
Before The World Was Big tends to smooth out some of the punk/pop edges of 2014’s Girlpool, opting instead for a more intimate and reflective mood. The album has a cleaner sound than early followers of the band may have grown used to hearing. Moving between places and strong personal relationships are the dominant themes. ‘Chinatown’, the outstanding track of the album, dwells on the infatuations for others and associated self-criticism that youth brings with it. Guitars slowly strum, and Tividad and Tucker’s voices join together in pleasant harmonies. ‘Pretty’ and ‘I Like That You Can See It’, towards the end of the record, strike a similar tone. This grappling with childhood is helped by the fact that Girlpool are still teenagers themselves. Memories such as swimming in Seattle and singing ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ are convincingly fresh. The album never falls prey to angst-ridden indulgence, though, as the lyrics remain thoughtful and well paced throughout.
Girlpool have not shorn the spiky sound they cultivated with standout singles like ‘Blah Blah Blah’ and ‘Jane’ entirely. The title track has a simple but edgy guitar loop, the bass has an almost menacing presence, and the vocals seem to revel in clashing with each other, rather than wanting to co-operate. ‘Emily’ is a fantastic song, with a clangy guitar given space to offer a nice contrast with the more stripped down feel of other tracks. Achieving this is all the more impressive in that the band does not possess a drummer, and the album features few sounds besides the guitar, bass, and vocals.
Successfully building on 2014’s success, Before The World Was Big is a fantastic record that gives a fuller account of what Girlpool are capable of. The songs prove catchy and well balanced, offering a pleasingly angry take on childhood, love, and friendship.