Album Review: Girlpool - What Chaos Is Imaginary

31 January 2019 | 4:59 pm | Tim Kroenert

"There’s much more to these 14 tracks than angst."

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Girlpool’s Cleo Tucker describes What Chaos Is Imaginary as “like a photograph of a very transitional time”. It’s not just a departure from the profound simplicity of 2015 debut Before The World Was Big and its heftier sequel Powerplant (2017). Promoting the album, Tucker’s Girlpool soulmate Harmony Tividad references mental health issues, which partly accounts for its relative emo-ness. “You live halfway/In a transient home off the highway,” she sings on the album’s title track, “There's so much to see/There's a silver lining/And a ripping seam.” As ever, frankness and vulnerability, and the songwriters’ gift for luminous turns of phrase, mean there’s much more to these 14 tracks than angst.

The time between albums has been transitional in other ways. Tucker came out as transgender in 2017 and has been undergoing hormone replacement therapy. Now instead of being twinned, the voices vie from an octave’s distance. On rocked-up tracks like Lucy's, Tucker displays a nasal snarl resembling fellow Los Angeleno Brian Aubert (of Silversun Pickups), but finds a gentler mode on the half-whispered All Blacked Out. A new approach to songwriting, as informed by the members’ solo efforts, helps mark this record as Girlpool 2.0 – more like a collaborating duo than a unit, but nonetheless captivating.