Camp Cope - How to Socialise & Make Friends (Cover Artwork)

Camp Cope

How to Socialise & Make Friends (2018)

run for cover

In the interest of full disclosure, I had been waiting to get many hands on this, Camp Cope’s debut full-length record ever since I saw Georgia ‘Maq’ McDonald play ‘Done’ for Rolling Stone Australia on YouTube in early 2017. Right away, I felt compelled to play her performance to my wife, who was frustratingly indifferent. It was at this point that I realised not everyone was going to be as immediately enamoured with Camp Cope’s stripped-back style of punk storytelling as I was, so I took a step back to re-evaluate. I listened to last year’s self-titled EP (a lot), thought long and hard about the songwriting, arrangements, delivery...and still liked them enough to look forward to this record hugely.

As is often the case with things that you fall for hard and fast, my love for last year’s self-titled EP has toned down somewhat, but I still had great expectations coming into my first listen of HTSAMF. The good news first - the songwriting is still excellent, lyrically. At various times genuinely moving, angry and impassioned. All things you want from this sort of music, frankly. On top of that, McDonald sounds brilliant, too. Landing somewhere between Courtney Barnett and a wilfully disillusioned version of Corin Tucker from Sleater-Kinney, there’s a really impressive range of power, fragility, personality and sneer in her voice from track to track. It’s also abundantly clear how much the messages contained within the songs mean to her. At times the record has the feeling of a collection of cathartic, open letters – aimed at people in McDonald’s life – which just adds to the feeling of authenticity that permeates throughout. Lyrically, McDonald covers sexism in the music industry (The Opener), youthful romantic realism (Animal & Real) and an ode to her mother’s partner (who committed suicide in 2014) in ‘I got you’ (which interestingly mirrors the final track of last year’s EP; ‘Charlie’s Song’, named after the son of the aforementioned father figure). All of these are infused in subtly different ways with Camp Cope’s signature lackadaisical, stoner character that draws the listener in with its conversational style then slaps with occasional brutal, emotional honesty.

But I can’t be universally positive, I’m sad to say. Maybe I’m being naive or guilty of wanting too much from a young band, but I was hoping to see maybe a touch more diversity in the sound of the album. Their sound is admittedly charming, but by the time you get to the end of track 4, ‘Anna’, a pleasant, languorous, dedication song that clocks in at almost 6 minutes, I can’t help but wish for something just a little different. There isn’t any great variation in pace or tone (either vocally or in terms of the instrumentation) and bassist Kelly-Dawn ‘Kelso’ Hellmrich and drummer Sarah ‘Thomo’ Thompson do rather end up being extras in McDonald’s show. My suspicion is that they’re aware of this and perfectly happy with it, but as great as these songs are, they do start to suffer a little bit through this lack of variation. Even the relatively subtle switch to an out-and-out solo acoustic effort in album closer ‘I got you’ feels like a pleasing departure from the unswerving formula of the rest of the album – and is something of a highlight.

Camp Cope have put together a decent album, certainly. The songs are well-written, represent the band excellently and are fundamentally enjoyable to listen to. Also, there will absolutely be moments or lyrics among this heartfelt collection of songs that jump out and resonate with a lot of listeners, but where I was hoping for a real standout debut full-length, its uniformity of sound tends to detract from those occasional flashes that show what the band are truly capable of.