Camp Cope’s new album delivers the goods


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Allegedly Sherlock Holmes once said that you have to be able to recognize fifty different kinds of perfume by scent alone before you can even call yourself a detective.

Likewise, anyone looking to provide qualify contemporary music criticism needs to be able to identify thirty or forty influences by ear alone.

With Camp Cope, a three-woman band from Melbourne, Australia, you can hear Liz Phair’s influence, but it’s mixed with an outrage against the patriarchy she could never hope to match while remaining mainstream in the 90s.

You can hear The Velvet Underground, or maybe The White Stripes in the circle songs—what Paul Kelly calls “songs that are built on a chord progression that cycles in the same order from beginning to end,” according to The Guardian—but the Velvet Underground could never emote like Georgia McDonald’s vocals.

And there’s probably any number of influences abroad and in the States fueling this band’s output. I can hear them. I just can’t identify them.

And that, combined with their energy and feeling, has kept me hooked on them and their latest album. I simply can’t stop listening.

I’ve no idea whether their release this month of How to Socialize and Make Friends represents a turning of the tide in indie rock against the male patriarchy, whether it reflects a newfound political and social consciousness, or whether it’s reaffirming and continuing what contemporary music has been doing for years now without being noticed by the mainstream. It’s getting that kind of press, so sure, I guess.

What the album does for certain is deliver ruminative chops about gender, power and consciousness side by side with easily accessible references to the life we all live in one way or another.

The first track, “The Opener,” is angry. Angry about “another all-male tour preaching equality,” and angry about “another straight cis man who knows more about this than me.” McDonald’s singing ends these observations with full-throated emotion that will blow your speakers out if they’re turned up loud enough.

“The Face of God” is about a sexual assault, apparently committed by another musician who “has that one song that I like.” The album’s title track has lyrics McDonald sings equal parts angry and reeling: “Maybe I’ll leave the house tonight … Maybe I’ll tell everyone I cried while you / Sleep next to your wife for the rest of your life.”

But other tracks mix an anger that seems almost a foregone conclusion with something more hopeful. In “The Omen,” the lyrics move from “And I really don’t agree / That your merit is buried in your gender normalities” to “But let’s move far away from here when I finally get my degree / And we’ll live happily / Get some rescue dogs in a house by the sea.” And in both ends of the song, whoever is being addressed is reassured that “I promise I’ll take care of you if you promise to let me.”

Maybe Camp Cope is railing against a world they know won’t change satisfactorily in their lifetime, or maybe they’re navigating the system skillfully enough to choose their battles and rejoice in the beauty untouched by oppression.

Whatever they are, they’re for real. More, please.

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Camp Cope’s new album delivers the goods