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There have always been dark undercurrents to the sweetness and nostalgia of Summer Camp’s dream pop. From the kitchen sink tragedy of ‘Was It Worth It?’ on their debut Young EP, which featured lyrics of marvellous deadpan candour (“It makes me feel so down, / Like I’m gonna die, / If we weren’t at your parents’ house, / I’d probably cry”), to the hidden lives of the inhabitants of Summer Camp’s fictional American suburb Condale where “Families build houses on the graves of those they’ve loved.” If you require visual evidence, please see the seaside town murder the pair commits in their latest music video (‘Always’).
Unsurprisingly, the bleakness continues with ‘Life,’ the opening track of this EP, as Elizabeth Sankey sings of her “bloody hands”, “dark soul” and “icy breath” over desolate piano chords, playing a similar dangerously infatuated character as the stalker with bloodthirsty, yet affectionate, tendencies of ‘I Want You.’ The aforementioned sinister track from their 2011 album Welcome To Condale, in fact, seems to be the chief influence over this five track EP as Summer Camp have taken the electro dance sound they occasionally dabbled in on their album, and run with it. Gone are the 80s movie sound bites that prefaced the majority of their previous tracks and gone are the wistful shoegazing ways of ‘Ghost Train’. Summer Camp have curtailed their endearingly geeky teenage Americana obsession in favour of becoming the king and queen of the indie dance floor.
‘Life’, and title track ‘Always’, are the sparklers of this largely electronic disco collection, with both numbers effecting euphoric lifts like it ain’t no thang. Who knew the Mr and Mrs of understated pop could do funk so well? A further surprise comes in the form of ‘City’; a slowed down, R&B flavoured jam which, one imagines, would have been a number one single for All Saints in their heyday. Although, it must be noted that Sankey hits the kind of notes most girl bands can only dream of.
So rather than singing about coming-of-age tales and experiences, have Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremey Warmsley, musically, come of age? This release largely feels like something of an experimental concept EP, what with its Donna Summer-gone-indie vibes and strict single word song titles, but it does make us wonder whether Summer Camp will return to their much loved C86 stylings. Either way, they still rock in their own charmingly polite way.
- Kate Allen
Written for NOTION