Friday, April 24, 2009

Camera Obscura's My Maudlin Career and Shepherd Bush's Empire gig review

I have always felt shameful that not too many people have heard of the band Camera Obscura. Formed in 1996, this Glaswegian twee band is known for their country/indie pop 'romantic' music laced with the sweet voice of band co-founder and singer songwriter Tracyanne Campbell, but always sadly lurking in the shadows of Belle & Sebastian, which I find rather disgraceful. Camera Obscura rarely plays in London. In fact they are more popular outside of Britain, evident by the number of fans from different countries attending last night's gig at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in support of their new album My Maudlin Career.

My Maudlin Career is yet another wonderful album. Personally I can't see the band ever churning out any bad albums or songs. The album is a lot more mature sounding than their previous albums and it did take me by surprise by how mellow it sounded in comparison to Let's Get Out of this Country. Delve deeper and you will find all the usual melodramatic and depressing lyrics, no matter how 'happy' or 60s they sound. Having listened to it for tens of times, this is now my second favourite Camera Obscura album, just behind the classic that was Let's Get Out of this Country, and easily the best indie pop album I have heard this year. Short review: it's great, go buy it.

Anyway, onto the gig at Shepherd's Bush Empire. With guitarist Fránçois of Bristol based fránçois and the Atlas Mountain, Camera Obscura went through a set list consisting of a number of songs from My Maudlin Career and Let's Get Out of this Country. Despite the set consisting mainly of songs from the new album, the fans were well versed. You could tell when they are stumbling to get into groove with some of the lesser known tracks. The title track, "My Maudlin Career", the track given away for free from their website back in February, was the first one up, followed by the soft melancholy "Tears for the Sun" from Let's Get Out of this Country. The upbeat and infectious "Honey in the Sun" was next, with its brilliant use of trumpets getting the crowd moving. Even the big-haired pro-photographer down the front was grooving along as he recorded a video on his SLR.

The choice to include "French Navy" in the set is a no brainer considering it is the first single off the album. It also happens to be the first track from My Maudlin Career, which I thought was a wise choice as it is a rather lively song and great lyrics ("You make me go uuuh, with the things that you do"). "James" is a perfect example of a very Tracyanne song. With lyrics like "Oh James, you broke me... I thought I knew you well" reminds us all why we love the band as much as we do, even as Tracyanne laments this alleged James. Then it was the country (and beautiful) "Forest and Sands" followed by "Swans" with its mocking "Oh you want to be a writer, fantastic idea" lyrics. Brilliant.

It is back to fan favourite, "Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken" of the last album, a song that is as sunny on the outside even if you are ready to be heartbroken and response to "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" by Lloyd Cole. The assault from Let's Get Out of this Country continues with the up-beat "If Looks Could Kill" and melancholy "Country Mile", whose wrenching lyrics takes you down. While I won't be doing it anytime soon, Tracyanne is just prepared to trade her mother to see hear her sing with "The Sweetest Thing", which while good was one of the more unforgettable songs from My Maudlin Career, in my opinion of course.

"You Told a Lie" which comes right after "The Sweetest Thing", just like in the album, is definitely the highlight of My Maudlin Career, as Tracyanne continues lamenting with "Who was it that said that love conquers all? Oh he was a fool cause it doesn't add up". The set ends just like how Let's Get Out of this Country ends, with the exhilarating rendition of "Razzle Dazzle Rose", a classic song. The encore consists of two fairly popular favourites - "Eighties Fan", the song that brought them the attention through association with Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian from their debut album Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi (with nothing else from the first two albums) and the quality indie pop title track from "Let's Get Out of this Country".

Buy the album now from or


Anonymous said...

The band was great and as you say, more people need to listen to this band, but the crowd, the crowd was boooooring.

Jon said...

Yeah part of the crowd were a real bore. Even my partner, who has never heard any Camera Obscura songs until that week was singing along.