“I’ve been seeing my own death, I’ve been laying down, I’ve been going down, giving strangers head,” sings Georgia Maq on ‘Caroline’, the first track of Camp Cope’s third album, ‘Running With The Hurricane’. It’s an arresting opening that’s perfectly attuned to the open-hearted, unguarded attitude of the Sydney/Melbourne trio since their 2015 inception.
They’re led by Georgia Maq (real name Georgia McDonald), the proto-frontwoman. Her voice, deep, burnished and brazen, channels the heart-on-sleeve greatness of R.E.M’s Michael Stipe or Linda Perry. A thrumming vein of heartbroken resignation – within the current of blistered, hard-won hope – infuses Maq’s voice and words throughout ‘Running with the Hurricane’. It also carries the same sort of sad, lovely – sometimes ferociously untamed – storytelling Courtney Love delivered on her 2016 solo album ‘Nobody’s Daughter’.
Bassist Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich and drummer Sarah Thompson vibrate on the same frequency as Maq, delivering perfectly cadenced, open-palmed support for her adept journeys into guitar-centred, post-grunge soliloquys from the heart. Their 2016 self-titled debut prompted rave reviews and epic tours, both as headliners and support for the likes of Waxahatchee and Against Me!, before they returned to the studio for 2018 album ‘How to Socialise & Make Friends’.
In 2019, Maq released her debut solo album ‘Pleaser’, which revealed a seductive pop sensibility and the enormous adaptability of her voice. So it’s no surprise to find a cathartic expansiveness to this new album’s magnificent belters (‘Caroline’, ‘One Wink at a Time’) and the country-folk style harmonies (‘Blue’).
There’s a loaded quality to the description “mature”, which at worst might suggest a gentrification of a band’s sound. At best, it gestures at the sophistication and perfectly sculpted sound that can only come from time and talent. ‘Running With The Hurricane’, then, is mature in the best way: elegant with raw edges and seams openly revealed. It has ditched the roughness of the indie punk beginnings Camp Cope was known for, in favour of a pop-meets-country-folk attitude. In that spirit, every song is a story in first-person, whether the protagonist is Maq or an amalgamation of the diverse, radiant women she knows.
Maq’s knack for storytelling enables this ambiguity around who the protagonist really is (“I make up stories from all these very real things that happen to me,” she said in NME’s February cover story. “They might be different people or different situations, but somehow, it just ends up in one song”). But she maintains her authenticity through pared-back, emotive vocals.
The versatile Maq reveals a homicidal envy as easily as she pledges her devotion. On ‘Jealous’, she partly drones, partly croons the admission “I’m so jealous, I’ve been dragging this chain around, I’m so jealous, my love, I’ll run you down…” It’s a stark contrast to the simple piano melody and taut, sinuous guitar line that heralds closing track ‘Sing Your Heart Out’. Maq, no longer maniacally jealous, promises her enveloping, healing love to some lucky soul. It’s a final flourish from an accomplished, justifiably treasured Australian band that defies genre.
- Release date: March 25
- Record label: Poison City Records