Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Camera Obscura „My Maudlin Career“ (4AD, 2009)

A long overdue listen – they have been hovering on and off my radar as a need-to-check yet overwritten by a legion of oddities that the mighty ’tube and sharity pages have conjured up for the better part of the millennial turn, here today and gone tomorrow, to be had in preference to a deceptively surefire stability such as a band actually holding a recording deal here and now. Always the next day to find out. Yet there are deals and deals; labels and labels. Sneery as I am over stable-spotting, 4AD is something of a soft spot. Come the chance, I threw myself under the gentle opening punches of „French Navy“.

The peacock motif fluttering through the pastelsy album cover won’t cheat – the opening salvo is way sprightlier than the nocturnal house (as in „haunted“, not „acid“) style of 4AD. Less Cocteau Twins, more early Texas, all that Celtic soul ambition of putting the purr back in „perfect pop“ of the Me Decade. Camera Obscura might have their hearts in aulder synes but not for nothing did they once kick off with „Eighties Fan“.

Yet never trust a single – the Northern stomp of „French Navy“ yields to a languid flow of roadside reverie where Tracyanne Campbell’s vocals obtain the just-out-of-bed twang so de, um, rigueur in the nebulous transgenre publicly known as indie. No overwrought c(r)ackling under self-pity, though; more like holding steady against the current of impending stardom, watching the bodies of the boyfriends past drifting by.

The slow ones keep being pleasant in a wee bit Lynchian mode (think Julee Cruise, Chris Isaak) with „Careless Love“ waxing grand orchestral epic; but it takes a faster jangle of „Swans“ to pit the aspirational backing most impressively against the slumbersome sarkiness of the stay-at-home vocals. An even struggle now that the Swedish production unit bares its Abba tooth.

At present, then, homeward bound is little more than a fading memory for Camera Obscura: the lyric sheet draws a map of worldly sites right up to Mexico city of the reconciliatory upbeat closer „Honey In The Sun“. They do get around these days and it sounds like they’re ready to have it that way after all.

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