Girlpool is as punk rock as it gets. Two girls, at 18, release their first LP and gain a moderate following. No drums, just bleeding heart lyrics that are as honest as it gets with a clean guitar and some simple bass lines. A year later, a second, finely tuned LP drops from the duo and the punk rock continues.
Of course, this isn’t the type of punk rock that the Beastie Boys pissed off their parents with. This is the new age of lady-punk that has taken over the indie scene ever since genre prophets Sleater Kinney bursted back earlier this year.
Before The World Was Big hits you right in the heart when you hear it. I don’t care if you’re an 18 year old girl ready to ship off to college that has a moderate collection of vinyl she’s trying to find a place for in her room, or if you’re a big dude with too much hair and a bit of a beer gut just trying to find some sort of hope at success while hurling towards your mid-twenties, this album will hit you “in the feels” if you give it a minute of your time and you have any sort of decency.
If you’ve listened to Girlpool, you have probably exclaimed to yourself “Hey, they don’t even know how to play the drums! What’s the big deal here?” Or maybe you tried to return the album to your friendly neighborhood record dealer claiming “I paid for a punk album. There are no drums on this CD. This CD must be destroyed.” I don’t know how you really reacted to the album, but yeah, there are no drums on the album and that’s probably one of the most punk things about it. And as for how simplistic the music is in terms of composition, it’s really refreshing to hear something as simple and beautiful as the thin, clean notes hit back and forth beneath the rough-around-the-edges folky harmonies of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad.
The title track is one of the stronger ones. Lyrically, it takes you, the millennial listener, through every weird stage of your life; looking at it from the perspective of sitting on the front porch of the house you grew up in. The vocals start out screamy and harmonious. The chorus quickly switches into 3/4 time and the second time around turns into a round, which adds so wonderfully to the blissful nostalgia of the youth that this song tries to pull out of the past.
Taking two steps back, the opening track “Ideal World” almost puts Before The World Was Big into the concept album realm, but let’s not read into that too much. The song starts out with the simplest of two chord progressions and vocals of “I thought I’d found myself today/ No one’s noticed things are okay,” which are perfect for us Millennials trying to find ourselves, followed up by “I took a walk down the street/ Found nothing beneath my feet” later on in the song. The lyrics set the tone for the rest of the album, which constantly go back and forth between the present and the nostalgic yesterday, and the desperate search for a link between the two vastly different times.
“Crowded Stranger” is the loudest track on the album and gets a rare and fuzzy makeup for the guitar through the middle of the song. Immediately afterwards, “Pretty” is nothing but a quiet humming synth with a harmony over the top of it. “Cherry Picking” is another worthy listen, featuring some very cool layering on a guitar that comes back and forth from fuzzy and lo-fi sounding to clean and acoustic.
There are really no flaws with Before The World Was Big, unless you think drums are a mandatory part of a band. If there’s anything that that minus symbolizes, it’s the fact that two girls that still haven’t even hit 20 have made such a solid piece of work, and it’ll be exciting to see what happens in the future for Girlpool, a band that seems destined for indie-rock stardom if the pair continues on its current path.