“I promise words of tenderness in every single line that I write” coos Traceyanne Campbell on If Looks Could Kill and, eight tracks into this warm collection of pop loveliness, you’re more than happy to believe her.
One of the first thing you’ll notice about Let’s Get Out Of This Country is the insidious catchiness of its songs, evidenced by the instant familiarity of recent single, Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken. Choosing it as the album’s opener is a clever move – its jangly pop guitars welcome us back like an old friend to the sugary pop world of Camera Obscura, long-time favourites of John Peel and musos from the UK to the USA, promising a shot at the chart success that has so far eluded them over a career spanning nearly a decade and a half. Isn’t it about time they did a Pulp and rose up from relative obscurity to give the Girls Aloud and Sugababes of this world a good kicking?
Let’s Get Out Of This Country delivers ten perfect pop tunes, from the opening paean to ’80s irony-merchant Lloyd Cole to the album’s closer Razzle Dazzle Rose, a lovely little slice of tuneful misery that’s been listening to Only The Lonely a little too closely but is sweet enough that you’ll probably let it off.
Between the two, guitars, pianos, accordions, cellos and violins produce fairground tales of regretted affairs (“Can you keep one more dirty secret for one more dirty night” on Tears for Affairs), young not-quite love (The False Contender’s “We were so sweet under the Copper Beech/You left a mark where you sunk your teeth” must rate as the best hickey-related line this year) and hopeless relationships (practically every other track) shrugged off before moving on to the next one.
It’s easy to see why the band can boast celebrity fans from the late, great St Peel to Conor Oberst and Mike Myers – their lyrics stretch beyond pop to great ironic poetry. This is used to great effect nowhere better than on I Need All The Friends I Can Get, where the backing choir contains The Concretes‘ Victoria Bergsman and singer-songwriter Britta Persson. With friends like this on hand to help out, you know Traceyanne’s got nothing to complain about.
It’s also done them major favours working with Swedish Producer Jari Haapalainen, who’s used to bringing out the best in similar twisted pop troubadours from The Concretes to Ed Harcourt. String musicians who’ve worked with Love and Brian Wilson also help to bring retro sunshine through the rain of broken hearts and dashed dreams, along with a definite 1950s bubblegum influence on some tracks, particularly If Looks Could Kill’s Shangri-Las style bounciness, with its opening line ‘Tell Me Where it All Went Wrong’ as Traceyanne attempts to explain to a clueless bloke exactly why he’s upset his girlfriend.
You know he won’t understand, but if he’s going to listen at all, it might as well be to as melodic and witty a raconteur as Ms Campbell. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the attempt.