Truly great music is tribal. That’s why we paper our walls with the faces of our favourite musicians. That’s why we get band tattoos. That’s why we use music taste to pick our partners. And that’s why the opening few guitar strums of an album as good as Before The World Was Big can fill you with a monumental sense of hope. A sense of hope that says: there are strangers out there making music that explains the things I’ve never put into words. A sense of hope that says: I am not alone.
By combining the sparse with the emotive, and the innocent with the experienced, Girlpool have turned out the album of the year so far. Every second of the album’s twenty something minutes rings true. By never taking the high ground, or obfuscating their message with overtly ‘poetic’ themes, the band connects directly and plainly with the listener. A line like ‘I thought I found myself today’ from the brilliant album opener Ideal World rings stunningly true, precisely because it so understates its message. The same can be said of title track Before The World Was Big’s ‘walked round my neighbourhood, one hundred one million one billion times.’ It’s a line that wouldn’t work printed on the page, but feels totally essential when sung: it’s music that could only be music.
Girlpool play the guitar like few others play the guitar. Although their songs are simple, they craft whole universes with the fewest of notes. Magnifying Glass lasts only thirty eight seconds (soft count in included) and could almost serve as a lullaby. It’s the kind of song that anybody could have written, but nobody else has, and its uniqueness genuinely stuns.
Best of all, the album’s tone is all encompassing. At times, the proceedings become steeped in a gentle melancholy (Chinatown’s beautifully tragic guitar work impresses as much as the brilliant line ‘if I loved myself would I take it the wrong way?’); but at others, the record is touched with a cautious optimism. Dear Nora is the kind of love song you listen to when you’re not in love; Emily is the kind of song you play to celebrate the little accomplishments in your life that almost anybody else would consider par for the course, like finding the strength to make it out of the house twice in one day.
Before The World Was Big is unique in a way that so few other records are unique. It’s powerful, and it’s passionate, and it’s perfect. Girlpool are a band that love you for exactly who you are, and Before The World Was Big is a gift that comes straight from their hearts.