Here’s another lost review from the MonkeyBiz era. Originally posted on December 3, 2011, this assessment of Camp Radio’s second album, Campista Socialista, was one of two critiques I had published on MonkeyBiz.ca that day.
In the piece, I complained that it was sometimes difficult to make out the lyrics. In fact, before I even wrote my final assessment, I actually emailed the band to see if they would send me a complete lyric sheet since there wasn’t one included in the CD packaging. (I could only find sample lines on their official Band Camp site.)
Unfortunately, there was no response. However, two days after my review was posted, Camp Radio did make a public comment about it on their official Facebook page:
“Behold some fine guess work regarding the lyrics on Campista Socialista. Are they correct? You be the judge!”
They even linked to the original review. I didn’t realize they did all of this until many months later. Sadly, the review link is dead now. (As mentioned previously, all my MonkeyBiz reviews have since been removed from the site but thankfully, I was able to find cache copies on the Internet Wayback Archive Machine.) You know I’m pretty sure that I posted an alternate link in a comment on that December 5, 2011 Facebook entry but today, I don’t see it. Weird.
Anyway, it was nice to know the band had read the review and liked it. Despite not being sure that I made out all of the lyrics correctly, I heard enough clear ones to get the basic gist. In fact, I enjoyed the album so much I added my review copy to my personal CD collection.
CAMP RADIO: CAMPISTA SOCIALISTA: An Album Review
Posted on December 03 2011 under Arts & Entertainment
By Dennis Earl
A punk rock sound with a strong political agenda, similar to late 70s offerings from The Clash and Gang Of Four. That’s what I was expecting to hear based on the title alone.
But Campista Socialista, the second album from Camp Radio, has nothing in common with London Calling or Entertainment! In fact, the content is purely about the terminal pleasures and frustrations of love and sex.
Led by long time indie vet Chris Page (The Stand GT), like The Ramones, this power pop trio from Ottawa waste little time here (10 songs in 32 minutes) offering one overly loud but ultimately engaging rocker after another. Imagine R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills fronting a tighter mid-90s Wilco.
While it would’ve been helpful to include a lyric sheet in the packaging (some lines get annoyingly buried in the relentlessly abrasive mix), the words that can be heard are memorable and match the intensity of the surprisingly hooky arrangements.
Lines like “hold me close so I can smell you in my clothes” (from the sweetly mid-tempo I’ve Got You Up My Sleeves) and “I can feel you on my tongue/so dance for me my little one” (from the ultimately forlorn My Halo’d Speak).
“Everyone’s a crack authority only lately” (from Suffocating City which suggests a more melodic Raw Power-era Stooges ), “trajectory says things are fatally flawed” (from the fuzzy Cosmic Fair) and “accessibility’s a tingle down her spine” (from the biting Turn Up The Radio, the best track on the album).
It’s a testament to the musicianship of guitarist/vocalist Page, bassist Dave Draves and drummer Scott Terry that because the music is so good you want to keep coming back to it again and again hoping this time you’ll finally solve the mystery of those maddeningly elusive lyrics, somewhat similar to R.E.M. during their early I.R.S. period.
Some songs are more clearly defined than others. The nervous protagonist of I Have Designs is so overwhelmed by the idea of pouring his heart out to a special someone he literally feels nauseous (“And I wonder why I’m sick to face tomorrow”).
Page is “bored out of my mind” by the safe, mainstream mentality of an amorous female singer in Turn Up The Radio (“Turn up the radio/I think she’s breaking ground/Empty promises of distant, killer sounds”) and having regrets about all the sacrifices made for another relationship in Reinventing The Laugh Track (“I’ve already ruined dreams to be with you”).
In the pretty Murder On My Skin, Page exudes extreme confidence in winning over another lady (“I belong with you to star in dreams you’re tending to”) while in The Girl Who Stole My Motorbike, he sounds distant (“I’ll hold you when I need to/That’s for sure”).
Less clear is the source of tension in Slack (“Before you wake up and get hostile, it’s not what you think”). Essentially, this couple’s in crisis (“we’re just out of sync”) and Page doesn’t want to be blamed for it (“I think I deserve some slack this time”). Because a number of lines get lost in the mix, the song is more mysterious than it should be.
Ditto Cosmic Fair with its surreal image of another couple in crisis encountering buzz-cutting astronauts at an outer space-inspired festival.
But for the most part, you sense the basic thrust of these songs. Besides, the more you listen to them, the more you want to sing along.
Campista Socialista arrives five years after Camp Radio’s self-titled debut. Here’s hoping the next release will come sooner than that. And includes a lyric sheet.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, August 31, 2013