Wednesday 13 December 2017

Review of Camera Obscura in Dublin's Button Factory

Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura
John Meagher

John Meagher

For many years, Glasgow has punched above its weight when it comes to music, with the likes of Teenage Fanclub and Belle & Sebastian flying the flag for Caledonian indie rock.

Named after an optical device that paved the way for photography, Camera Obscura have been around since the mid-1990s but haven’t quite achieved the same level of recognition of these much-loved bands. And what a shame it is, because when they’re on the top of their game, they are a considerable force to be reckoned with.

Much of what impresses about the septet centres on Tracyanne Campbell, pictured, whose wonderfully emotive vocals and lyrical preoccupations on dashed love retain a strong grip on those who happen upon the band. And she certainly delivers the goods in a quietly magnificent performance tonight.

Their latest album Desire Lines is well represented in the 90-minute set, but there are career-spanning offerings too and enough variation to ensure interest rarely flags.

Campbell’s voice is in particularly fine fettle as she navigates the lovely ‘Let’s Get Out of this Country’ and Desire Lines’ stirring title track and there’s a sweet groove to the sun-dappled ‘Honey in the Sun’.

The accompaniment is understated early on, and the introduction of brass on the superb ‘French Navy’ takes proceedings to another level – and offers a reminder of their aforementioned peers, Belle & Sebastian.

Those immune to the charms of resolutely downbeat songs might struggle to appreciate the Camera Obscura experience and it’s true that Campbell’s smartly crafted vignettes are drenched in melancholia.

And yet, the band’s willingness to wrap such material in a jangle pop package is a seductive ploy with one of their standout songs, ‘Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken’, offering a thrilling collision of heartbreak and glorious guitar riffs. It’s a tune that illustrates the hyper-literate aspect of so many Camera Obscura compositions and is, in many ways, a tribute to Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’ ‘Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?’ from their classic 1984 album, Rattlesnakes.

This highlight ushers in the night’s most captivating segment with the aptly named ‘My Maudlin Career’ and the gorgeous ‘Come Back Margaret’ showcasing the band’s gifts for classic songwriting that is shot through with real emotion. One can only imagine that Campbell has experienced her fair share of disappointments, romantic and otherwise.

The night ends in uncharacteristic fashion as the band ratchet up the melodrama on a giddy ‘Razzle Dazzle Rose’, but it’s the set’s more subdued, introspective moments that is more likely to remain with the crowd afterwards.

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