Album Review: Summercamp – ‘Welcome To Condale’

They're back to (re)make hand-holdy couple-pop their own

Unless you were a boy/girl duo in music over the past 18 months, you stood no chance. Sorry [a]Viva Brother[/a], but the alt.pop crowd currently demand sexual frisson and chick-flick suspense for their buck. Since January 2010, there’s been uncountable mutations: sexy country (Jenny And Johnny), acoustic folk ([a]Big Deal[/a]), ’60s girl group ([a]Cults[/a]) and tune-stuffed deviltronica ([a]Sleigh Bells[/a]).

But where were [a]Summer Camp[/a]? Having kickstarted this burst of couple-y creativity with 2009 debut single ‘Ghost Train’, Elizabeth Sankey and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Warmsley finally release their debut album at least a year late, after cobbling together funds by flogging jumpsuits and brownies via Pledge Music. That the opening track is a marvellous ’80s disco track called ‘Better Off Without You’ (“If you said you were not coming back/I’d be so happy I’d laugh the whole night long”) suggests they’re aware of the coupletronic cliché; instead, their lurk has allowed them to compile the best elements of the duos at their heels. So ‘Brian Krakow’ is a motorik [a]Sleigh Bells[/a], slamming bubblegum choruses and handclaps into a wall of Suicide fuzz, while the gothic ‘I Want You’ is John & Jen getting naked and famous. But if this sounds like a montage of beau-pop’s ‘best bits’, we’re soon wrong-footed.

As ‘Welcome To Condale’ develops, it branches down uncharted backroads. ‘Nobody Knows You’ combines trip-hop and soul to create a dancefloor [a]Portishead[/a]. The title track is a country barndance that appears to have fallen into a 3D printer to be recreated in vulcanised rubber. Fractured techno, torch song balladry, oilsmoke rock’n’roll and soulful synth pop merge sublimely, all rooted in tales of romantic dislocation and repair. Not just a summation of 21st-century alt.pop, but a compass pointing the way to its future adventures.

Mark Beaumont