Review Summary: After ten years of languishing in obscurity, Camera Obscura deservedly hit the big time with this album, perfected by producer Jari Haapalainen.
In a brief documentary about the making of Let's Get Out of This Country
, Tracyanne Campbell is interviewed lying on a large red couch, looking up at the filmmaker. The mood, like the lighting, is subdued; the overall image, as she talks about her bandmates and their songs, is of a client with their therapist. She is guarded, occasionally showing a small smile or arching an eyebrow, but nothing more. Which is appropriate, really, considering the wealth of emotion that she poured into the band's third studio record.
It’s a good thing Campbell knows how to write about love, because all ten tracks concern it in some way. She doesn't play at awkward metaphors or forced similes which could see the songs veering into a sickly sentimentality, and her rhymes flow naturally, not jauntily. Instead of offering clear narratives, Campbell reflects more precisely the ambiguous and oftentimes confused nature of love by filling her lyrics with idioms, innuendo, and enigmatic imagery. She is wry and sly and witty, even mocking, as when she sarcastically sings to a womanising friend on “I Need All the Friends I Can Get”: “A long distance call to the mystery blonde / It wasn't good for business / You say that she cried when she heard the bird's song / You want to soothe her distress”. Her lyrics also adeptly address feelings of boredom, ennui and escapist desire, as in the titular track, where Campbell admits “Let's get out of this country / I have been so unhappy / Smell the jasmine, my head will turn / Feel like getting confessional”. Delivered in her clear, bell-like voice, Campbell's lyrics soar.
The band moved to Sweden to record the album with producer Jari Haapalainen, and his deft touches certainly elevate the album. Looking back on the band's experiences with Haapalainen, bassist Gavin Dunbar reflected that “he liked to get his own way, and he would do whatever it took to get it, and was pretty good at it. That was perfect at the time – we needed someone who would kick our asses and make us do better. We learned a lot and improved as a band.” They certainly did. Shedding the acoustic sound of their previous releases helped the band shake off the unfavourable comparisons to fellow Glaswegians Belle and Sebastian, which had haunted them for years. With lesser lyrics (or a lesser vocalist) to match it, the rich new sound would feel disproportionate and out of place; as it is, however, it perfectly complements Campbell's voice and words, especially on the album's two best songs, “Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken” and “Let's Get Out of This Country”. On the former, string flourishes give an ironic edge to Campbell's deadpan delivery; on the latter, keening strings swell beautifully as she sings the rhyming couplets that end each verse. With this album, Haapalainen helped Camera Obscura develop a more orchestral sound that was uniquely their own.
The album isn’t forty minutes of uninterrupted success; the better songs generally contrast Campbell's melancholy lyrics with a more upbeat sound in order to avoid getting too bogged down in sadness. But there are no missteps here. In the aforementioned documentary, Campbell said that sometimes she didn't know whether she liked being in a band, but that “it's like an obsession or something, it's like I refuse to give up.” Only after ten years was it that Camera Obscura deservedly found success with Let's Get Out of This Country
. We should be thankful indeed that Campbell was determined not to call it quits.