I have to admit to a slightly strange feeling this week. It’s not down to the return of late winter after a taste of early spring; it’s not the early onset of anticipation over the World Cup in Brazil. No, it’s because Camera Obscura are on tour in the UK and for the first time in many years we aren’t going to be able to make it to one of their gigs.
Camera Obscura are one of those bands that are loved by many but are a mystery to most. Often carelessly categorised by journalists, they are a band that mean a great deal to the There’s Treasure Everywhere team. A band that can provide the brightest, breeziest pop songs on the planet but are also capable of the most tender, thoughtful and touching songs. Songs that can remove you from the bustle of your surroundings and put you slap bang in the midst of an emotional bubble that can be difficult to leave.
Although we first saw them at the Bowlie back in 1999, it wasn’t until the release of their second album, the brilliantly titled “Underachievers Please Try Harder” in 2003 that they started to fully weave their spell on us. At the time I was working in Imperial Music and remember urging the record on anyone who entered the shop that I thought would be susceptible to it’s charms. The promise of that album was made flesh for us during a memorable gig at The Cube in Bristol in January 2004.
Miraculously we managed to win an invite to family and friends album wrap party in Glasgow for the “Let’s Get Out Of This Country” album. So on a cold December evening in 2005 we nervously entered the tiny confines of the RAFA club, It was an amazing evening as we got to hear a live performance of the outstanding songs that make up that game changing record.
From that day on we’ve been fortunate to see the band many times in all sorts of different places around the UK. From a strange nightclub in Shrewsbury to a sold out Barrowlands in Glasgow, it’s been fascinating to watch the band grow.
And then there are the songs, so many wonderful songs written by Tracyanne Campbell. Not only does Tracyanne have one of the most affecting voices in modern pop, she also possesses the ability to write glorious songs. There is a short film about the band that you can find on the Internet, during which Traceyanne talks about writing songs for former band member John Henderson to sing, as she was not confident enough to sing them herself. It’s not too hard to imagine Tracyanne locked in a room within the Brill Building with the likes of Carol King, Neil Diamond and Laura Nyro, diligently crafting pop masterpieces. How fortunate though, that she found her own voice and the self-belief to share it with us.
It’s also a delight that the core of the band has remained solid over such a long period of time. Gav, Kenny, Carey, Lee and when he is available, Nigel provide the perfect foil to Tracyanne’s sublime voice
Of course at this point I should link to my favourite song from the band but that’s a tune that would change everyday. My choice could waiver from the subtly withering words of “Teenager”, to the sparkling shimmer of “French Navy”. The brilliantly mournful opening lines of “New Year’s Resolution”, the hand clapping, foot stomping joy of “I Need All The Friends I Can Get”, the monster hit single, that somehow never was, “Lloyd, I’m Ready To be Heartbroken”, the desperate poignancy of songs like “James” and Country Mile” and well, at least another ten that I could list.
I love the steely resolve of the band, their determination to evolve over the course of their five albums, the bravery of their song choices and the shared experience of their company at the gigs. They are special people, people who can move both the heart and the head. We look forward to seeing them live again soon; luckily we have their marvellous back catalogue to assuage the disappointment of not seeing them this week.