Girlpool Bar Le Ritz, Montreal QC, April 21
Published Apr 22, 2019Girlpool adhere to their influences like no other group. The Los Angeles-based band portray the anxieties of fear and joy in ways that feel remarkably pragmatic. Their lyrics are conversational, but they're conversations you only have with a close friend.
The group stopped by a decently filled Bar Le Ritz Sunday night and delivered a set so lacking in compromise that it was hard to pinpoint where they went wrong. The duo — multi-instrumentalists Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad — incorporated ideas into their set that, while smart on paper, appeared odd and out of place onstage.
After some preliminary guitar noodling, Tucker kicked things off with "Lucy's," the opening salvo off Girlpool's latest album, What Chaos Is Imaginary, released in February of this year. Not only is the album a surprising dive into experimentalism for Girlpool, it's also the band's first project since Tucker came out as transgender.
Tucker's vocal range was noticeably lower, but this injected the set with a dynamic range that was otherwise lacking from the group's previous efforts.
The set list didn't include many of Girlpool's older hits, and instead focused on material from their latest. Sure, the newer tracks allowed Tucker and Tividad to flex their experimental leanings, but the endearing harmonies that defined their early works were wiped clean in exchange for synth-wave drum pads and moody ambience. "Hire" and "What Chaos Is Imaginary" showcased a more assured sense of musicianship, but the execution onstage was particularly uninspired.
Whether or not this is indicative of a more "mature" side to Girlpool, the duo still managed to retain the messy, off-kilter aesthetics that made their initial efforts so appealing. The band struck the same musical chords as Beat Happening and Animal Collective, two influential bands known for their childlike approach to pop music. Girlpool didn't imitate so much as they delineated certain motifs; their guitars were loud and fuzzy, and the choruses were undeniable.
The commitment that Girlpool put into their performance was apparent, but there was an obvious disconnect between the stage and audience that was hard to ignore. This could be a sign of touring life taking a toll, but aside from a few lighthearted quips between tracks, interaction with the audience was minimal, at best.
Tucker and Tividad made room for a few fan favourites, most notably "It Gets More Blue" and "Fast Dust" off their 2017 effort, Powerplant (arguably one of the decade's best rock records). Though there were some truly great performances, the end result felt diluted. Sometimes, simplicity is all you need to make an impression. Girlpool had that on lock. Sure, the band know how to march to their own drum, but they missed a few beats.