Dalliance Review of 2011 More
Written By Michael Wood Monday, January 9th, 2012
- I Am Very Far - Okkervil River
The best live band you will see doing Rock n' Roll shows have put out an album that shows the emotional range of one of their performances. Weaving between melancholia and pumped guitar stylings I Am Very Far is a band hitting the targets that it sets for itself, and very high targets those are. Lyrical, intelligent, excellent.
- Welcome To Condale - Summer Camp
Out of the ethereal and onto record it has taken a long time for Summer Camp to emerge after some curious shows and a few hints towards obscurities. What emerges is an album recollecting a time not lived in a place that probably never existed but with a feel that is universal. Songs of heartache and loss are always played out well to a catchy beat.
- (I Can't Get No) - Stevie Jackson
Or, if you will, the guy out of Belle & Sebastian doing his own thing and doing it so very well. The references are sixties pop of course but the immediacy of the guitar driven pop and the cute smartness of the lyrics are surprisingly effective.
- Nursing Home - Let's Wrestle
It is thrashing guitars and sarcastic lyrics but that has never been something that upset me and Nursing Home manages not only to power through its running time in an indecent haste but also includes some laugh out loud funny moments. Superb.
- Collapse Into Now - R.E.M.
Or if you will the end of an era. The last R.E.M. is another addition to the catalogue that adds breadth but lacks the depth of the earlier work of legend. Still a cracking listen and they will be missed.
- Obscurities - Stephin Merritt
A collection of Merritt's offcuts from projects is always going to be a sketchy affair but the great stuff is really great stuff.
- Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002-2010 - The Radio Dept.
A singles collection, so perhaps it should not count, but unseen by most this Swedish band have been making a cerebral music that aches with a heartbreak unspeakable.
- An Argument with Myself EP - Jens Lekman
An EP is half an album so Lekman only gets half points for this brilliant collection of songs about friends dying, getting lost in Melbourne and looking for movie stars in Sweden.
- Hanging From A Hit - Okkervil River
Will Sheff's lyrical masterpiece in two parts is a rock and roll's sexual predatory instinct hitting hard and cruel into a real life. Searing, dazzling, and darkly beautiful.
- Walked Out On a Line - Okkervil River
A band so good they can leave this story of drug fuelled destruction on the shelf as Will Sheff and Co reference the sound of the Beach Boys while creating something utterly new. Key Lyric: In the storm's scream and swirl's/Where I spotted my girl/I was pinning her straight to my side.
- Waiting for Kirsten - Jens Lekman
Lekman's true story of trying to meet Kirsten Dunst in Gothenberg uses the Swedish singer's favourite trick of lulling the listen in with a dry humour and twisting that humour into a thoughtful depression. Key Lyric: But the VIP lines are not to the clubs/But to healthcare, apartments and jobs./"Hey buddy can I borrow five grand?/'Cause my dad's in chemo/And they wanna take him off his plan."
- In Dreams Part II - Let's Wrestle
Mayhem on a record. Key Lyric: In my dreams there were Pokemon beating me up/I punched Pidgeotto right in the face
Blood Oranges, Summer Camp and Frankie & the Heartstrings at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
It is Elizabeth Sankey's birthday and the slimmed down Summer Camp are playing songs from their new ep to a smattering of people in Leeds' Brudenell Social Club. Each track has a vague sound of a brilliance just out of reach and suddenly I am struck by the worry that this will always be the case.
Opening act Blood Oranges do not have this worry. They are a fine but formulaic act. No trees were harmed or pulled up in their performance and that is entertaining but ultimately unengaging. They have an excitement that last for exactly the time they are on stage, no more no less, nothing is out of their reach but their reach is not great.
Likewise main band Frankie and the Heartstrings are a superbly tight band who set out to create a modern spin on fifties rockabilly and - like The Crookes - pull that off. They are a raucous night and good to listen to but what you see with them seems to be what they get.
Summer Camp though promise something iconoclastic. A sly take on pop culture while at the centre of it. The smartness of the kid at school who was sexy because they didn't try to be. They throw out lines of cynical gold. Jake Ryan's "I can't wait to burn your letter" is as good a comment on living through mediated culture as you could hear.
They deserve more, but they have to earn it. Sankey is charming, Jeremy Warmsley a smart partner and to see them commit to being the uncommitted band is almost a tautology but they need to take more care about not caring. It is hard to put the finger on why things do not click live as well as they do on record but undoubtedly the blast of smart brilliance that comes from the speakers is not passed over live, or has not been so far.
As a band they have a lazy way - new song Veronica Sawyer is dreamily sublime - but as much as the band deserve all the plaudits for what they do they need to make sure that what they have in hand does not drift away.
That Summer Camp is more than just one good season for eight sunny week.
For Summer Camp read: The Best New Band In Britain More
Written By Michael Wood Sunday, May 30th, 2010
Summer Camp and Slow Club at The Cockpit, Leeds
A dozen and a half years ago in the wake of Melody Maker's declaration that they were "the best new band in Britain" - and armed with a demo tape of four tracks - Suede put in faltering performances not dissimilar to Summer Camp's final gig of their first ever tour.
An initial buzz and curious mystery Summer Camp have played a seven song support slot for the last week that - as with Suede's four tracks - vary between songs that have been stuck to one's turntable for the last three months and things that are new to the ears.
Ghost Train - the first release and first played - suffers fro a sound problem that plagues the night at Leeds' Cockpit venue with Elizabeth Sankey's vocal sounding as if it was amplified through a septic tank and Jeremy Warmsley's guitar and keyboard - as well as the second keyboard which put a lie to the idea that the band are a duo - lost under a thud of bass.
Nervously Sankey looked over an audience who struggled to be impressed but - chink by chink - a quality emerged and once the sound problems were if not solves, then a little sated, killer hooks and smart lyrics started to become clearer and Sankey's front woman persona look shape.
Wearing a kind of all in one and wiggling around the stage Sankey comes over as an amalgamation of big haired eighties pop British songstresses like Dana and something more modern and Transatlantic. She is Karen Over-here and she is good adding a sly smile to the smartness and a twee innocence. On best song Was It Worth It she croons "If we weren't at your parent's house/I'd probably cry" and it sounds honest.
One would never have accused Warmsley of honesty in her previous solo career. Twelve months ago when playing Leeds in support of Blue Roses a lyric from the nerd with guitar offered was "If you break her heart/I'll break your legs" which was patiently untrue as it looks as if the bespectacled singer/songwriter would struggle to break an egg. It lacked honesty, had no authenticity.
Which is not to say that Summer Camp are opening their hearts on stage but they are making something with a created core of truth. The songs are lazy sixties beach bingo tunes with girl group vocals and swooning cynicism that battles a smart flick through of music touchstones. They go gospel for an intro, Sankey bends head back on a never heard before tune Warmsley steps back and plays pseudo-metal licks.
The sound - indeed the band - are the creativity of a scrapbook. Nothing strikes one as massively new but everything is arranged in a unique way. Glued in and scribbled over, highlighted and starred and made into something new.
Perhaps then the between song banter - Sankey's referencing of Alan Partridge's Dan wins me over - and the half shambles of trying to sort out a van back to London while on stage is a part of that scrapbook creativity or maybe - as with Suede - the haphazardness is a band who have risen to prominence faster than they have been able to prepare but showing all the signs that they would make it.
For Summer Camp may have read "Best new band in Britain" and stuck that in the scrapbook too.
Slow Club follow and make an impressive entrance cutting through an augmented and enthusiastic audience as a pair playing acoustic guitars stopping at the front to play a first song in the front row. They storm to the stage but are beset with the sound problems that Summer Camp faced but the problem mire the two piece further to a point where the crowd are forced to hush to hear an electric guitar played without amplification.
"It's been shit tonight," says Rebecca Taylor in her gruff South Yorkshire tones "but you've been good" and the band deserve not a review of a gig that they would hope to forget so hard was it to get through a song without the ring of feedback but credit for battering on through it.