Camera Obscura don’t make a grand entrance. They quietly assemble on the stage while the DJ is still playing, and lead singer Traceyanne Campbell is fiddling with her new effects pedals claiming she isn’t a ‘guitar geek’ and adding "they don’t call us indie shamblers for nothing".
Well, shamblers they may be, but on the strength of this gig, and their new album Let’s Get Out of This Country, maybe now’s the time for them to hold their heads up, step out of the shadows of their more illustrious Glasgow peers and claim a place of their own at the indie top table. They’ve been derided by some in the past as a 'poor man’s Belle and Sebastian', which is a bit unfair, because although there are similarities in sound, they're very much their own band.
And while Belle and Sebastian have largely moved on from their classic whimsical indie-pop formula, with mixed results, Camera Obscura have built on and expanded theirs, and arguably created a far better album than The Life Pursuit in the process. The lead track from the new album (and nice bit of Scottish intertextualisation), Lloyd I’m Ready to be Heartbroken is a classic example. It’s a glorious piece of widescreen guitar pop, with easily one of the best intros of the year. Played towards the end of their set, it’s the gig’s highlight for me.
On Lloyd... as on the rest of the album, Campbell’s effortlessly sweet, pure and clear vocals glide beautifully above the band’s sweeping sounds. Tonight, I’m captivated. It’s not just her signing voice either – her broad Glasgow accent has a pleasing edge that ex-pat Scots (like myself) have lost.
There’s a lot to enjoy. Let’s Get Out… (which makes up most of tonight’s set) is well up there in my albums of the year so far. There’s reverence and delight from the audience – hushed silence on the quiet and lovely Country Mile, celebration at old favourites like the Spector-esque opening of Eighties Fan, and mass rhythmic clapping along to I Need All the Friends I Can Get. And of course Cargo itself – easily London’s best live music venue (what other venue in this city can you sit outside on a hot summer Sunday evening eating ‘Latin American street food’ drinking good beer, having a great time, then thinking “Oh, it’s 9:30, better go in and see the band then…”)
So Camera Obscura – thank you for brightening up the evening of a very bright day. And look out North America, they’re coming your way soon – starting in Toronto on the 4th of July.
Finally, since I've posted Lloyd... previously, here’s probably the quietest and the loudest tracks from the new album, and a bonus from their debut Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi. Oh, and sorry about the rubbish photos. I can do better (honest).
Download: Camera Obscura – Country Mile
Download: Camera Obscura – If Looks Could Kill
Download: Camera Obscura – Eighties Fan
Buy Let's Get Out of This Country at Amazon.