"Don't Know My Elbow From My Ass"
(photo by Greg Chow)
After making the trip to Austin to play a few SXSW showcases, Glasgow's Camera Obscura flew north to New York to play tracks from their soon-to-be-released My Maudlin Career to sold-out audiences. Their first show was last night at The Bell House in Gowanus, Brooklyn, an old shipping warehouse, which houses some of the finest sound (Thanks EAW!) in all of New York. The veteran Glaswegian septet ran through a super tight set of new songs "you haven't heard because our record isn't out yet" (wink wink), including "James", "Swans", "My Maudlin Career" and "French Navy", the first single. While the focus was on new material, TraceyAnne Campbell and company treated the sold out crowd to golden oldies like "Let's Get Out of This Country", "Come Back Margaret" and "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken." Older songs were bolstered by a newfound love of all things percussive, presumably due to time spent recording with Bjorn (of PB&J), whose replaced Let's Get Out of This Country's sweeping Dusty Springfield orchestrations with his signature minimalist percussion, something the Swedish Midas has done with Taken By Trees, Lykke Li and the Shout Out Louds. An array of glockenspiels, maracas, tambourines and wood blocks effectively gives Camera Obscura's sad pop a more upbeat, almost girl-group bounciness, something I wouldn't have expected while listening to "Your Picture" in a collegiate library. Needless to say, the bands new direction, which is rather similar to that of Belle & Sebastian's evolution circa Dear Catastrophe Waitress (and even more so on The Life Pursuit), is a welcome step forward from a group who could have easily been pigeonholed as just another Lit-savvy band of heartbroken Scots playing melodramatic twee pop.
Camera Obscura "The Sweetest Thing" 3/18/09 Central Presbyterian Church