Philadelphian singer/songwriter Brian Christinzio – better known by his recording moniker BC Camplight – released a couple of albums of Beach Boys-influenced guitar pop in the back half of the noughties: 2005’s Hide, Run Away and 2007’s Blink Of A Nihilist.
Both albums were warmly received by the critics but, given their lack of commercial impact, it’s unlikely that many people were pining desperately for BC Camplight’s return as seven years came and went without a follow-up to Blink Of A Nihilist. Christinzio, it seemed, was just one of many recording artists who fail to get the world’s attention and then slip off the radar and into alternative employment.
But then, towards the end of last year, it was announced that BC Camplight was now based in Manchester and had signed to the esteemed label Bella Union. How To Die In The North is, then, Christinzio’s big comeback album, and he sounds thoroughly rejuvenated across its nine genre-hopping tracks.
Opener You Should Have Gone To School is perhaps the most forthright-sounding thing he’s recorded yet: a punchy number with a predatory bassline and a big, lapel-grabbing chorus. The eight tracks that follow flit between psych-pop (Love Isn’t Anybody’s Fault), blue-eyed soul (Just Because I Love You), garage rock (Grim Cinema), surf pop (Thieves In Antigua) and woozy balladry (Atom Bomb).
Christinzio recorded How To Die In The North with local Mancunian musicians, but it’s notable that the album sounds as American as apple pie. Christinzio and his English charges prove themselves adept at mixing the tropes of classic American pop with just enough subversive grit to make the album so much more than just an exercise in musical nostalgia.
So, Just Because I Love You sounds like a nihilistic version of Donnie & Joe Emerson; Love Isn’t Anybody’s Fault’s grandiose psychedelia is ingeniously undermined by a cheesy middle eight that resembles muzak, while Good Morning Headache features perhaps the most melodious singing of the word “Brian” in musical history. Lay Me On The Floor, meanwhile, is just plain odd: an unholy mélange of lurching tempo changes, strained falsetto vocals and synths.
This is an occasionally beautiful, often strange album that deserves a wider audience than Christinzio’s previous releases. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another eight years before the next one.