El dúo británico Summer Camp, formado por Elizabeth Sankey y Jeremy Warmsley editaba este otoño el que es su disco de debut, este Welcome to Condale (2011). Una vez superada esa imagen oculta tras pseudónimos, Summer Camp editaba esta bienvenida al imaginario Condale.
Planteado más bien como una borrachera o vendaval de ideas y de referencias, el disco navega de una forma errática entre el Surf-Pop (Summer camp), el sonido de los setenta en su vertiente más glamouroso-petarda (Brian Krakow, Losing my mind, Down, Last american virgin), el Electro-Pop (Nobody knows you) o el Pop más gótico (I want you). Estas influencias no aparecen de manera aislada, sino que se van superponiendo de manera caótica casi todos los temas, de modo que la mayor parte de los mismos se saturan, y el resultado final es una suerte de pastiche que a la tercera escucha se me indigesta de tal forma que difícilmente llego a 1988, donde se resume todo ésto de lo que hablo, dando lugar a una tema estomagante que me reafirma en la idea de que Welcome to Condale es un disco absolutamente prescindible. O para muy aficionados a estos estilos de los que os hablo.
“Obviously, Warmsley and Sankey went to great lengths to create this world, and in a way it’s impressive, but the non-musical aspects of Welcome to Condale (especially the “zine” portion, which eschews the personal-cultural DIY nature of the form in favor of signifier-collecting scrapbook nostalgia) highlights the pair’s predilection for time-distanced cultural references. Anyone who listened to last year’s Young EP could have seen this coming, as Sankey sang about “A boy dressed like Teen Wolf” and friends taking photos “with Polaroid cameras” on a song titled after Winona Ryder’s character in Heathers. Still, their (sometimes ironic, sometimes not) devotion to the past is persistent, especially in the face of the growing realization that such devotion in indie culture is exhausting itself: in the video for Welcome to Condale single “Better Off Without You”, Sankey sings her punchy part under an Instagram’d filter, juxtaposed by vintage-looking footage of teen-focused films. Warmsley is seen playing some guitar, wearing a “wolf shirt” (something he’s known to wear, it seems).
As some people tend to forget, indie pop’s relationship with the past is part of the genre’s lifeblood, with bands using out-of-time images and cultural figures to create their own little universes, away from the pain of modern life. Summer Camp, on the other hand, collect such influences like Pogs (a bit of cultural ephemera untouched by these two, thus far at least) and merely throw ‘em out here and there, without context or relation to the music. Witness the ill-juxtaposed vocal samples that open the lost-youth lament “Summer Camp”, a far cry from the Tough Alliance’s personal-is-political use of a key line from John Cassavetes’ Shadows on “A New Chance”, or the fact that the album’s swaggering bedroom-arena highlight, “Brian Krakow”, takes its name from the nerdy character on “My So-Called Life”. The song’s a bit of a brilliant kiss-off-but-not-really anthem, featuring a rare lead vocal turn from Warmsley that, truth be told, carries more bold confidence than the actual (fictional) Krakow could have ever possessed.
An entire album of “Brian Krakow”s, or the winding, ecstatic pop of “Better Off Without You”, would make all of Summer Camp’s nostalgic wrongs somewhat right. Unfortunately, Welcome to Condale is stylistically all over the place and, despite its generally upbeat tone, kind of a drag to listen to (the fact that those two aforementioned tracks kick off the album highlights how front-loaded the thing is). Instead, we get some more sparkly pop (“1988″), chugging indie rock (“Down”), sluggish electro murk (“I Want You”, “Nobody Knows You”), and a re-recorded version of Young’s “Ghost Train” that, while improving on the original, shows how little they’ve grown as a band between then and now. As producer, Pulp’s Steve Mackey does a decent job of figuring out what kind of retro-tastic sheen this type of music warrants (hint: kind of like this, or this), but its application seems tacky and forced, especially since the source material isn’t very engaging to begin with.
“Everything changes when you grow old.” That’s the first thing you see when you visit Summer Camp’s website, as a line is slowly drawn through the phrase, negating its inevitable truth. The truth, obviously, is things do change as you get older, as they should and as Warmsley should know quite well; prior to starting Summer Camp with Sankey, he released two solo albums of cut-and-paste electro-acoustic pop (2006′s The Art of Fiction and 2008′s How We Became) that bear little resemblance to the music he’s making now. Of course, plenty of musicians change the sounds they’re working in all the time, even if Warmsley’s recent move toward this particular brand of in-vogue, backward navel-gazing is suspicious in its possible calculation. The fact, however, that he was easily able to make the transfer from a front-and-center singer/songwriter to a competent sideman to Sankey’s vocal talents highlights how little actual personality and originality Summer Camp possess as a project. Settling in and safely blending into the background: I guess this is growing up“ (pitchfork.com)