Camp Cope - How To Socialise and Make Friends

by Mark Moody Rating:9 Release Date:2018-03-02
Camp Cope - How To Socialise and Make Friends
Camp Cope - How To Socialise and Make Friends

Ironically titled Run For Cover Records' stable of artists have had a few stumbles of late.  Much loved indie up-and-comers Pinegrove scrapped both their US and European tours (members of my family had tickets for both), due to some not very well explained allegations of sexual coercion at the hand of bandleader Evan Stephens Hall.  It looks like the length of their hiatus could also affect what many believe to be a pending album release.  More recently, the more established band Turnover dismissed their lead guitarist Eric Soucy over issues of “emotional abuse”.  Pinegrove’s train wreck of events left European tour opener Phoebe Bridgers in its dust.  And though Turnover is continuing on with a new guitarist, fellow label mates Camp Cope pulled out of an extensive U.S. tour presumably in protest over Turnover’s botched handling of the situation.  It’s unfortunate for all of these artists’ fans that this is playing out as momentum was building for many of these acts, and is particularly upsetting for the many involved who had no culpability.  Idols are being torn down across all spectrum of entertainment, politics, and corporations, and deservedly so.  The sea changes going on are certainly more important than a single band or a single tour.  Unapologetically, if not a bit prophetically, Melbourne-based Camp Cope addresses the issue head on in the aptly titled ‘The Opener’ on their excellent sophomore album, How to Socialise and Make Friends.

Guitarist and lead singer, Georgia “Maq” McDonald, along with bassist Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich and drummer Sarah Thompson, sing and play as if their lives depended on it.  Over the course of the album their post-punk energy is shot through with emotion and strong hooks.  The opening track opens with a bass line that sounds like a Johnny Cash cover is going to break out, but quickly picks up a punkish lope.  Maq builds her vocal to a seething indictment of sexual politics, particularly in the music industry for which the band has been outspoken.  She intones “treat them like queens until they disagree” and lists out the affronts the band has faced:  from the sardonic “all my success has got nothing to do with me” to men telling them they can’t fill the concert hall or to play in a smaller place.  Hellmrich and Thompson perfectly hold down an insistently steady beat as Maq ferociously tears into the song.  Maq’s earnestness is her strongest suit and she has it in spades throughout the album.  ‘The Opener’ is really the only overtly topical song while the rest of the tracks focus on the more personal.

The title track has a brighter, stair stepping cadence but involves Maq’s dressing down of an apparently married man she had a relationship with but who also talks to school kids through the fence - an unsettling image to say the least.  The emotional core of the album comes a few songs later with the back to back tracks ‘Anna’ and ‘Sagan-Indiana’.  The former is a six-minute slow burn of a tale of a departed partner.  You can feel the rawness of Maq’s pain in the opening line, “She packed her bags and went on her way back to Adelaide”.  And in what seems advice to the subject, sounds as if Maq is speaking to herself in the choruses of “get it all out, put it in a song”.  With maybe the exception of ‘The Opener’, Maq’s voice is less one of anger than it is of unbridled emotion which packs a particular wallop on this track.  When she stretches Anna’s name out to multiple syllables the longing in her voice becomes a tangible thing.  Likewise, the tribute to ‘Sagan-Indiana’ (sure to pick up a few more social media followers) shows Maq finding herself through the girl that she “never saw what she was named after”.  This song also shows the band at their locked-in instrumental peak and that is saying something given how tightly they play together throughout.  ‘The Omen’ doesn’t have quite the power of the former two songs, but contains some vibrant lines about selling pot and making their mother’s cry and the simply complex, “I’ll promise to take care of you, if you will promise to let me”.  

The last three tracks are disparate but no less impactful.  ‘Animal & Real’ has an abandon about it, but the interplay of the instruments are some of the most intricate here.  On the flip side, ‘UFO Lighter’ is the most downcast track with an almost Smiths' like ill-fated lovers feel to it.  The closing ‘I’ve Got You’ is a heartfelt tribute to Maq’s father, Australian musician Hugh McDonald.  From the opening lines of “I was fifteen when you got sick” to the descriptions of her seeing her father in her own face and hearing him in her voice the song packs an emotional punch.  She describes her father as a defender of freedom and an advocate for truth and obviously these traits have been passed down to Maq along with the physical.  How to Socialise and Make Friends (not likely the band’s mantra) is a leap forward for this already solid trio.  Kudos to them for keeping things real and speaking truth - there is a depth here that’s not where typical post-punk treads.  And unlike the earlier quoted lyric, all their success will have everything to do with them and hopefully they get all the attention they deserve.  I bet they will.   

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