By Tony Inglis
Stereo, Glasgow, 9 September 2017
It happens about 50 seconds into ‘123’, the opening song from Girlpool’s 2017 record Powerplant; it’s the perfect fake out. Just as you think the LA duo of Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker have gotten quieter than on their previous album, Before the World Was Big, a drum roll sprints into earshot, and an entire band crashes the song through a wall of noise, their twin voices rising to a cathartic shout.
This is how Girlpool begin their set at Stereo, in Glasgow’s city centre, their last show of a short trip around the UK. It’s quite a rush. Much has been made of the Californians’ beefed up sound, and how it perhaps brings them closer to conventionality and the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic of 90s alternative rock.
But, there’s a reason Girlpool have been described as rock music’s future, as unnecessarily pressurising as that statement is. Tonight, they command the stage. Supporting bandmates Lauren Early, Ross Chait and Joshua Sushman – on guitar, drums and synth/saxophone respectively – provide an ecstatic energy which, for me, was entirely welcome, especially on the track ‘Corner Store’, when the song seems to collapse in on itself and Sushman’s synths get their own solo.
However, the attention of everyone in the room is squarely on Tividad and Tucker and their interlocking voices. There are moments on record when they can effortlessly go from a spooky whisper (such as the closing lines of ‘Soup’) to a rousing, empowering unison that isn’t replicated by many, if any, current acts.
In this setting, their vocals are even more pronounced and, around half way through the set, they are literally given the room when the rest of the band vacate the stage to allow Tividad and Tucker to play tracks like ‘Ideal World’ and ‘Before the World Was Big’ – the songs that best showcase their signature sound.
Since the show, I’ve been preoccupied by a small but significant detail. The crowd were near silent between songs which, even amongst music literate gig goers, is quite a rare treat. In fact, the band may have even been sent into a stunned silence by the hushed attention of the crowd but for Tividad and Tucker’s back and forths and attempts at improvisational comedy. They looked relaxed, assured and totally in control of their audience.
Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Girlpool is where their sound goes from here – do they relax into this noisier iteration, or do they revert to their quieter, but no less powerful, form?
For me, I lean towards the former, with the night’s second song, ‘Sleepless’, being a highlight. In the end, all sides of Girlpool are given their due at Stereo, and they are all thrilling.