Written by Pallabi Munsi | Published: March 17, 2018 12:32 am Musically, their second album, How To Socialise & Make Friends, is more reserved than the band’s critically-acclaimed 2016 self-titled debut.Top News
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Ever so often a band comes along and captures the zeitgeist of its times in a way others don’t. Melbourne-based folk-punk, three-piece Camp Cope, is that band in 2018.
Gender equality and the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements are hot topics throughout the world and they have subsequently flowed into the Australian music scene. Camp Cope called out sexism in the music industry when they criticised The Falls Festival on their own stage in January for only signing nine female musicians on a bill of 100 artists. It was a brave move. But Camp Cope are a brave band.
Musically, their second album, How To Socialise & Make Friends, is more reserved than the band’s critically-acclaimed 2016 self-titled debut.
It is a direct challenge to the current status of women in the music scene, gender and relationships, and the role of religion, creating an album of towering, ingenuous songs that don’t so much as cut like a knife as impale like a spear.
The music is sturdy indie rock, but the true revelation is Georgia McDonald and crew’s piercing songwriting.
The instrumentation is sparse. Georgia Maq’s guitar rarely breaks out of its rhythmic stride as drummer Sarah Thompson hammers away. The only flourishes come from Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich, who is one of Australia’s most inventive bassists.
On “The Opener”, McDonald rolls her eyes at the histrionics of her male foils, noting that if I was hungry / then you were starving / Now tell the dead man / You’re the one dying. As the song progresses, the repeated mantra “it’s another man” becomes a defiant kiss-off as McDonald recounts the ways men have brought condescension and backhanded compliments to degrade the band. The true strength of these lyrics is the avoidance of woe-is-me laments in favour of penetrating observation for the stark reality of what the band has encountered.
“The Face of God” is the song that strikes hardest against the culture of male victimhood and female demonisation rampant throughout the history of indie rock. After a murky sexual encounter where regret has surfaced, McDonald intones, And I saw it / The face of God / And he turned himself away from me / and said I did something wrong / that somehow what happened to me was my fault / you can see it in the apologists / and hear it in their songs.
However, How to Socialise’s center drags just a little with generalities. A near-constant state of catharsis in “Animal & Real” has a numbing effect. These are minor missteps among lyrics that are otherwise brilliantly concrete, and songs whose emotional range is vast.
Where How To Socialise & Make Friends hits like a sledgehammer is in Maq’s lyrics. Whether it’s raging against misogyny (The Opener) or singing about her late father, Redgum leader Hugh McDonald (I’ve Got You), the album is emotionally wrenching.
When Maq sings I’m so proud that half of me grew from you/All the broken parts too on I’ve Got You her voice almost breaks.
Then the song ends with her telling producer Sam Johnson, “Alright, I’m done” with exhaustion in her voice.
Camp Cope’s sophomore album is a heart-breaking listen, but it’s well worth the emotion.
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