Camera Obscura

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi (2001) , 6.5/10
Underachievers Please Try Harder (2004), 5/10
Let's Get Out Of This Country (2006), 5.5/10
My Maudlin Career (2009), 5/10

Scottish seven-piece combo Camera Obscura offered yet another take on Belle And Sebastian's folk-pop, highlighted by Tracyanne Campbell's warm and childish vocals. Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi (2001 - Merge, 2004), produced by Belle And Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch, was a collection of melancholy cliches of bedroom-pop that made Field Mice and the likes sound like avantgarde. The bouncy country-rock of Happy New Year sets the pace, but the other songs can't match its melody, although ditties such as Houseboat and Double Feature weave suave retro atmospheres and all and Anti-Western evokes the utopian folk-rock of the hippie era (Sonny & Cher). There are occasional moments of genius, like the nostalgic organ solo in Shine Like a New Pin.

The even blander Underachievers Please Try Harder (Merge, 2004) is a parade of sweet and sad tunes. Camera Obscura's gentle lullabies are now steeped in the music of the teenage-idols of the 1950s (Suspended From Class, Teenager, and especially A Sister's Social Agony) and to the naive Tamla soul (Let Me Go Home, that could be a Supremes cover made by Billy Joel). Alas, their songs rarely rise above dejavu. The best tune would be Your Picture if it weren't so derivative of Leonard Cohen. The band fails miserably when it tries a faster pace, as in Number One Son: it just doesn't have the skills. Campbell, instead, shines in the shy melodic shuffle Keep It Clean and in the Nico-esque Knee Deep At The NPL.

Having exhausted the patience of even their most faithful fans, Camera Obscura reinvented themselves on Let's Get Out Of This Country (Merge, 2006). Leaving behind the Belle & Sebastian role model and the blatant imitations of oldies, and relying on the lush chamber arrangements of Jari Haapalainen, they ventured into a new territory of lush pop ditties (Let's Get Out Of This Country, Lloyd I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken, Come Back Margaret) and elegies (False Contender). If the slow songs sometimes sound like random collections of easy-listening stereotypes (Tears for Affairs), the album also delivers their first rave-up: If Looks Could Kill (a` la Supremes). While nothing here is revolutionary, the combination of Tracyanne Campbell's sad songs and Jari Haapalainen's exuberant soundscapes is at least intriguing.

My Maudlin Career (4AD, 2009) features string and horn arrangements by Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn & John . The songs, again, provide a nostalgic summary of 50 years of popular music with echoes of teenage-idols (French Navy), girl-groups (Swans), doo-wop (The Sweetest Thing), orchestral ballad (Careless Love), psychedelic rock (My Maudlin Career), folk-rock (Forest and Sands), and country-rock (Honey in the Sun). Best is perhaps the slow haunting country-tinged elegy Away With Murder.

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(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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