You could be forgiven for thinking that Girlpool are a totally different band on their third record ‘What Chaos is Imaginary’. Since 2017’s ‘Powerplant’, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Trividad’s project has weathered immense change, as the pair found themselves briefly working apart for the first time, focussing on solo outputs, and growing into new identities. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, emotionally speaking - single ‘Where You Sink’ refers to Harmony’s struggle to situate herself in reality, the gentle vocal track belying the song’s difficult inspiration. ‘Lucky Joke’ also addresses the weight of mental illness and the desire to get out from under it with touching candidness, and to bruising effect.
The clearest difference between previous Girlpool records and ‘What Chaos is Imaginary’, of course, comes as a result of Cleo’s gender transition. Where Cleo and Harmony’s voices would previously tangle together to the point of becoming indistinguishable from one another, these days they play off each other in entirely different ways. For the first time, partly due to Cleo’s deeper vocal and partly down to the time Girlpool spent working independently, it is possible to at least occasionally identify who created which track. This gives ‘What Chaos is Imaginary’ a surprising new strength, as Cleo and Harmony find confidence in individuality as well as duality. Cleo’s vocal on ‘All Blacked Out’ especially is a testament to this, as the song skirts towards Elliott Smith territory. No mean feat. Still, as the cliche goes ‘the more things change… etc., etc.’, and there’s plenty of the old Girlpool still here. Harmony and Cleo are still radically open, still tender, their music still invigorating. It’s been a time of transition, and both journey and destination sound good from here.