Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Album Review: How To Socialise & Make Friends by Camp Cope (by Robyn Pierce)

Camp Cope is a three-piece alternative/indie-rock band from Melbourne, Australia, featuring Georgia ‘Maq’ MacDonald on vocals and guitar, Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich on bass, and Sarah Thompson on drums. Although the band’s second full-length, How to Socialise and Make Friends, was only due to be released on the 2nd of March (via Run for Cover), the band surprised everyone and delighted fans by streaming the full album on NPR music a week early. Before getting into this album, I had never listened to Camp Cope and I wondered if these songs could really be as awesome as everyone was saying online. The band seem to be gaining new fans rapidly, and after just one listen to this album I wasted no time leaping happily onto the Camp Cope bandwagon.

Camp Cope released the first two songs off of the album early as a teaser to get fans primed for the full release (and, just going by my limited social media feed, people were stoked!) ‘The Opener’ kicks off the album with some warm and welcoming bass notes. The drums and guitar slide in, joining the bass in setting up a smouldering groove for Georgia Maq to sing over. This combination is immediately intoxicating. I am amazed by Maq’s flawless vocals, which breathe righteous anger into a song about the misogynistic barriers thrown up in front of female musicians in a male-dominated scene. There’s also a nice sliver of Australian twang that sneaks into her singing. Vowels are opened-up and elongated, giving the listener more time to reflect on each line. Next, the album’s eponymous track is quite jolly and upbeat - although the song speaks about getting away from manipulative people and leaving behind destructive relationships.

Getting into the third track on the album, I was not prepared for how ‘The Face of God’ would affect me. It’s a cutting and emotional ballad that somehow manages to feel both fresh and nostalgic. This may be because of its retrospective narrative, which reflects upon an abusive relationship where the woman is demonised for wanting to break free from a selfish partner. In addition to Maq’s emotionally-charged vocals, Hellmrich is creating all kinds of bass magic on this track. In fact, now that I have obsessively listened to Camp Cope’s entire catalogue over the past few days I realise that enchanting bass lines is a consistent feature in their songs. ‘Anna’ begins slowly, but soon picks up until Maq is eventually belting out “Just get it all out, put it in a song”. I can imagine this song being a favourite at shows for fans to sing along to. ‘Sagan-Indiana’ also strikes me as a potential favourite from this album with its great vocal hooks and the steady build to another belted ending. In a world which so often tries to define individuals according to imposed categories and criteria, the final rousing chant of “I found me” feels like a moment of victory. With ‘The Omen’, the album heads back into ballad territory. Maq’s vocals continue to astound, but I’m also realising the important role played by the drums, which hold everything together in the beautifully glowing, smouldering mix. In ‘Animal & Real’, the band once again consider the seemingly inescapable effects of the past on the present, and the ways in which external judgements and traumatic experiences affect the inner self. ‘UFO Lighter’ should be renamed to ‘OMG, that bass’. I am living for Hellmrich’s gorgeous playing which sits right at the front of this track. Bringing the album to a close is the acoustic track ‘I’ve Got You’, which offers a really moving reflection on inheritance and remembrance.

Camp Cope’s How to Socialise and Make Friends is so raw and earnest, and utterly beguiling that I just cannot pull myself away from it. There is something so captivating in the minimal three-piece setup, which succeeds in creating songs that are open and vulnerable as well as powerful and hard-hitting. It is in telling personal stories, in sharing their experiences as women that Camp Cope are able to make a political statement about equality, to open up a space to be heard, and to push back against common misconceptions. This is one of those albums I didn’t know I needed, but now I can’t imagine being without it.

Stream and download How To Socialisr & Make Friends here:

Like Camp Cope here:

This review was written by Robyn Pierce.