Review Summary: Bones and insecurities
The Tigers Jaw poster stuck to the wall of Georgia Maq's bedroom represents a few things: the love for a genre and the passion for pleasant sounds; perhaps a sign for what was to come and what could be expected; and most potently the eager curiousity which had me attentive and equal parts impatient for the release of the Melbourne singer-songwriter's long-awaited, full-length debut. So when it was announced that Georgia McDonald would band together with fellow musicians Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich and Sarah Thompson to form Camp Cope - and that the three-piece outfit were set to tour with the likes of The Smith Street Band, Jeff Rosenstock and Modern Baseball - the desire to experience the fruition of such an unexpected collective became somewhat unbearable. Enter Camp Cope
, the band's debut album, flaws and all.
Lead single 'Jet Fuel Can't Melt Steal Beams' is an offering not too dissimilar to Gmaq's previous political musings, though through distorted jangles and an effervescent lead bass, extends something of a change of pace for the artist, passionate ramblings aside. With their simple, rock-inspired instrumentals, both this track and several others illustrate the most apparent showcase of the members' presence and synergy. Hellmrich's bass lines bob in and around McDonald's repetitive strums, as Thompson's spirited drums excite the sarcastic, frustrated, determined tones of the vocals. ‘Jet Fuel’ and 'Stove Lighter' demonstrate the band's commitment to a particular modern punk-inspired breed of indie rock, the latter of which songs sprinkles in some sweet harmonies and Gmaq's signature brand of vulnerable sarcasm.
Yet the band’s potential doesn’t reach its qualitative climax till the heartbreaking ‘West Side Story’, a cute nod to the Melbourne suburbs the band occupy and the personal tragedies unfolding within them. For while the aforementioned tracks find comfort in their familiar structures and derivative (though nonetheless, for the most part, effective) instrumental prowess, the emotional tenderness of ‘West Side Story’ is only enhanced through the defeated pace of the guitars, and the comparatively bellicose bridge. As the song progresses, Kelly and Thomo offer a sort of fuel to Gmaq’s emotional fire, upon which she delivers some of her most poignant lines.
”I tried to get the audience out from inside my head.
And the things you say are beautiful, but they don’t make very much sense.
From the day that I was born, they took me for all that I had;
And I let them, because they let me in”
Whilst the charm of the band translates well on record, however, the inconsistent production helps little in establishing a departure from their somewhat amateurish sound. Camp Cope in the past have done little more than live recordings and demos, and so while it might be forgivable, the compressed space in which some of these tracks live and fail to breathe can be a bit frustrating. Some tracks are mixed better than others, and the lead bass and vocals are often beautiful, though the tones of the guitar’s distorted rhythms sound unclear and almost indecipherable at certain points.
But Camp Cope
succeeds in preventing itself from stumbling over the uneven weight of its own presentation, and instead delivers a handful of well written tracks, straight from the Georgia Maq school of modern indie rock with an emotional folk punk aesthetic. In fact, its songs more than make up for it. Whether the instrumentals were denser or the production clearer, it matters little in the grander scheme of things. Camp Cope will need to improve as a band, something which nothing can foresee. On Camp Cope
, however, the trio extend a charming blend of passion and succinct song-writing, an undeniable equation of hard-hitting and lovable music.
‘Song for Charlie’ traipses in and stumbles upon a moment of catharsis, the overwhelming sense of realisation and unwanted deliverance that only death can bring about, and the album ends. Camp Cope traipses in and delivers a cathartic project - successes, failures, insecurities and all. For the most part, Camp Cope
isn’t a project full of brand new material (there’s a reference to ex-prime minister Abbott hidden in there), and the addition of the band doesn’t ultimately add all that much to older songs of Georgia Maq’s. But where the band succeeds, the band exceeds all expectations, and new-comers Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich and Sarah Thompson prove their well worth inclusion to the formula, as important as Georgia Maq solo performance ever could have been.
The Tigers Jaw poster stuck to the wall of Georgia Maq’s bedroom represented a few things: the love for a genre and the passion for pleasant sounds; a sign of the dark, anxiety-ridden sound which Camp Cope would come to encompass; and the overwhelming sense of cathartic comfort, satisfaction and understanding which comes from listening to a Camp Cope album. But the nature of these artists isn’t just about the listener or musician; it’s the connection between artist and audience, and it’s a damn fulfilling one at that.