Camera Obscura – Underachievers Please Try Harder (Scotland Week)

Camera ObscuraYou’ve seen them before: waifishly thin girls, wearing cardigans and horn-rimmed glasses, quietly clapping during a gig. They shun love and sex, as it’s not the type of thing Morrissey would have wanted. They eat quiche. They’re in a band that are so quiet and unassuming they almost don’t exist. Glasgow seems to have more of these bands than anywhere else. Maybe it’s the art school, but recently they churned out Franz Ferdinand, so that can’t be bad. Maybe it’s the legacy of The Pastels and the Vaselines (both big influences on Kurt Cobain weirdly). For the last 10 years, Belle and Sebastian have flown the flag all over the world for indie-pop. They didn’t exactly spark off a wave of followers, but Camera Obscura are one of the most prominent.

The band formed in 1996 but didn’t release an album until 2002 (Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi). Underachievers Please Try Harder followed the next year. It features some delicately crafted songs that never sound like they’re going to burst into some kind of symphonic glory, but capture a mood perfectly. The vocals of Traceyanne Carmichael and John Henderson intertwine really well, and Traceyanne sounds especially angelic when her vocals are double tracked, like on “Number One Son”. There’s some soothing quieter tracks like “Books Written For Girls”, which simply glides over me.
I’ve got to say that my favourite is “Suspended From Class”, if only for the wonderful line “I should be suspended from class/I don’t know my elbow from my arse,”. “Lunar Park” is another great song: there’s plenty of guitar work and some mazy, but none of it sounds too loud or obtrusive. Underachievers Please Try Harder was never going to be an instant classic, but it’s the type of album that I put on, on a lazy Sunday afternoon when I’ve got bugger all to do. It works a treat, and you might like it too.

Camera Obscura – Teenager:


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