How To Socialise And Make Friends (Poison City)
If anger fuels a good portion of Camp Cope’s songs it has to share that space with the fervour of the wholly involved, the black humour of the prematurely world weary (“I’m sorry about that line/I only wrote it cause it rhymed”) and the energy of the as yet unbowed.
What isn’t in play here, despite the sound and often enough the tempo of Camp Cope fitting the derogatory misnomer of slacker (rock), is the ennui of the diffident.
Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich, Sarah Thompson and Georgia McDonald have as much patience for the “who cares?” bunch as they do for the blokes booking rooms and festivals telling them to try a smaller venue as a band of women can’t fill the room. As they say in another context “there is no middle ground”.
It is this commitment which serves them well when some of the weaknesses in their material begin to surface. Not because it obscures the flaws, but because you can’t help but either get on board or at least be dragged along with the internal engine.
That investment is not just for the songs of social reconstruction/deconstruction - which some may wrongly assume is the preferred territory of Camp Cope given their public activism - but for the far more common songs of interpersonal destruction, of times when “I wasn’t the one who was unfaithful, but I can see why people thought I was”, and “Can't escape this perspective or the mark that was left on me/Damaged goods for the world to see, they walk straight past and away from me”.
Or in the case of The Opener, both ends of that spectrum, beginning as it does with the image of a cast aside lover watching her ex continue a pattern of besting/topping (“If I was hungry then you were starving/And he was so sick but you were dying”) and then extending that behaviour, and that reaction to it, to the wider issue of inbuilt sexism in the music industry (“it’s another all-male tour preaching equality/it’s another straight cis man who knows more about this than me”).
McDonald’s capacity for ratcheting up from a mumble to a scream is a great counterpoint to the music’s preference for a kind of monotonal rhythm, that locked-in pattern that can, when done well, feel like momentum subtly rising, but when not pulled off can feel like inertia.
This is their primary weakness on album #2: the occasional inability to shift a melody from static to elevating, to drag a song from pop-aspirational to pop-success. This absence drags the album just when it feels ready to make you as wholly committed as they are.
But there are plenty of reasons not to delegate Camp Cope to second tier, chief among them the way they take you in intensely and leave you shouting along, or hurting along.
That’s true when they put you on that “bike with no handlebars, through empty streets in the dark”, and even more so in the near-devastating final song, I’ve Got You, where illness, cruelty, fatalism and the lasting mark a parent can make on you come together in acoustic minimalism/emotional maximalism.
“And I will never meet a man that can make me question life the way you can/A defender of freedom, an advocate for truth/I'm so proud that half of me grew from you, all the broken parts too/I've got you.”