BC Camplight is 25-year-old American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brian Christinzio. And according to the press blurb Burt Bacharach is one of his key influences, something you would have realised of your own accord after listening to this, his debut album.
It’s not that Christinzio’s style is unoriginal – he has his own offbeat charm – but, what with the giant killer squirrel on the album cover and song titles like Blood and Peanut Butter, it does smack of an overstated attempt to be cute and quirky. His music works on some levels but there’s always this sense that it’s forced and contrived, that it’s this mask he’s hiding behind.
Having said that, in its best moments, the decidedly whimsical and often self-deprecating Hide, Run Away resembles not just Bacharach but also home-grown artists such as Badly Drawn Boy and even at times Belle and Sebastian. Too many of his songs though drift along in a pleasant, melodic manner without ever really taking root or displaying identities of their own which is a shame as he’s a clearly talented and intriguing individual.
On the whole Christinzio goes for gently retro melodies and a distinctly Anglicised musical style. The first track on the album, Couldn’t You Tell, opens with a burst of synth-led lounge music and carries on at the same quaint level. This is followed by the aforementioned Blood and Peanut Butter, actually one of the album’s strongest songs, even if the use of flat female harmonies does bring to mind a below par effort by The Delgados; it still succeeds on its own terms.
The title track too has a sweet poignancy and Wouldn’t Mind The Sunshine is another good song, a creeping, country-tinged affair that takes a lyrical cliché (“Show me where it hurts, I’ll be there to ease your pain”) and makes it feel surprisingly fresh. It fades out at the end though, and doesn’t capitalise on its strengths, which is rather disappointing. Delicate, piano-driven closer Sleep With Your Lights On also hits all the right buttons in terms of endearing melancholy.
Though low-key and laid back, there is a mischievous, slightly twisted quality to his lyrics, an occasional dash of hidden menace. When he sings “since I met you Delilah, Emily’s dead to me” and you twig that he’s talking to a mother about her daughter it is sufficiently amusing to make you spit a little coffee on your laptop.
For all it gets right there remains this uncomfortable question: on the occasions this album works for me is it because I simply like it for what it is or because it reminds me of other, better, things that I already like? After mulling it over for some time, I’d have to (reluctantly) say it’s the latter.