Two days after the release of his last album in 2015, How To Die In The North, BC Camplight‘s Brian Christinzio was informed that he was to be deported from the UK. Despite having found his home in Manchester and feeling like a homegrown Mancunian he found himself back in his parents basement in New Jersey playing Pac-Man. Not only had he been deported, but he’d apparently travelled back in time to the early 1980s.
Thankfully, his grandparents Italian heritage meant that he was able to secure a passport deemed acceptable by UK immigration and he was able to return to the UK. Upon his arrival, the Brexit vote happened. It’s been a turbulent time for Christinzio all in, but as someone who has consistently funnelled his life experience into his music, this period of uncertainty and upheaval has resulted in what might just be his finest work to date.
How To Die In The North dealt with issues around mental health and addiction, yet managed to retain an upbeat pop sensibility. But it would appear that the brush with immigration might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Deportation Blues is a darker and more abrasive sounding album than its predecessor, but Christinzio’s finely tuned ear for catchy songwriting remains in place. The result is a record that pulls in multiple directions, often within the space of a single song.
Despite Christinzio throwing everything into the mix, these songs are perfectly crafted and never wander into incomprehensible or messy territory. Deportation Blues opens with a fuzzed up punch, before morphing into a dreamy piano led vocal that finds Christinzio begging “let me in” and imploring that strangers be welcomed into the world. It doesn’t take a genius to work out exactly what informs this song. I’m In A Weird Place Now continues the theme, combining beautiful harmonies with occasionally aggressive interjections. As weird as the place Christinzio finds himself is, he still manages to find a surprising amount beauty.
I’m Desperate is the most outright aggressive track here, barrelling along on the back of a riff reminiscent of The Stooges and an off-kilter motif, but even here amongst the vocal allusions to Lemmy and the synth chills of Suicide, there’s still a glimmer of optimism wrapped up in the pure pop joy of the vocal harmonies. The main theme of the album might well be a state of a nation address and the personal grief encountered at the hands of the UK’s immigration policies, but underlying that is a love of the country and the ability to retain a sense of humour in the face of adversity. Midnight Ease is a laid back ballad awash with brass that starts off with Christinzio stating “Well I hate being dramatic, I do, I really hate that shit”. Later, just after the song moves into overblown soft-rock territory he concedes “alright that was pretty dramatic… I lie sometimes.”
This album is simply bursting at the seams with creativity. It’s not just in Christinzio’s whip-sharp lyrics and way with a melody but its sheer eclectic nature. Hell Or Pennsylvania sounds as if it could be cribbed from Bernard Hermann’s Taxi Driver score but also finds time to throw a little ’50s Rock ‘n Roll into the mix. Am I Dead Yet would not sound out of place on John Grant’s Queen Of Denmark, whilst Fire In England channels the sea dwelling spirits of Cardiacs main man Tim Smith’s solo endeavour Extra Special Oceanlandworld.
It’s this constant shifting of tone and genre that makes Deportation Blues such a delight to listen to. That it comes from such a turbulent and traumatic period in its creator’s life is somewhat surprising, because even though this is an album that has its moments of darkness, there’s an irrepressible spirit and joy contained in almost every single song here.