review archive

Camera Obscura / The Lollies, Upstairs at the Garage 10/3/01

At the top of a steep staircase, crammed into an attic-like room, it's like C86 never went away.
Free badges, raffle tickets and lollies (geddit?) are proffered at the door. Hairslides and the odd anorak can be seen amongst the (old skool) indie kids. This is the monthly Strange Fruit night, a noble initiative aiming to 'bring off-kilter indie, post-rock and eclectica out of the unknown.' Better still, they say, 'We took the traditional image of the indie club, of a group of sweaty boys dancing to Oasis, and completely destroyed it.' Yeah! Down with the sweaty boys! Let's face it, there's a limit to the number of times you can dance to 'She Bangs The Drum' or 'Common People'. Any club that includes Godspeed You Black Emperor! on it's playlist gets the Kitten vote, ,just don't expect to see me cutting a rug to 'The Dead Flag Blues'

strange fruit badge

First up are The Lollies, three girls wearing their hair in bunches and glitter on their cheeks, plus a boy drummer. They play short sweet fuzzy girlpop with a Shangri Las beat and a garagey organ sound which is especially effective in the first song, (Be My) Bad Boyfriend (told you there was a Shangri-Las thing going on). I also catch the words, 'washing dishes for the MC5', which sounds fantastic, until I find out later this line is referring to our heroine's life reduced to drudgery, boo! The sweet girl harmonies and sparkling tunes hide sentiments that are less starry-eyed, 'It's been two years since we had sex/ Sitting here waiting for our welfare checks.' Mind you, 'Boycrush Pusher' seems to be an ode to Pete Dandy Warhol. Another song has the brilliant title, 'Jonestown Mascara'. Then there's the spacin' organ driven 'Pearls'. At times they're like sweethearted Sleater Kinney's. We decide to pronounce them 'Endearing' and purchase their 'bang! bang! bang! lookout! lookout! lookout!' ep to play on clear skied days when we feel like eating ice-cream.

Camera Obscura come with a Belle & Seb seal of approval, presumably because the music they play isn't a million miles from our fave Scottish popstrels. The guitars chime in an early '80s pure pop way, like Orange Juice and pre-coffee table Everything But The Girl. There is much rattling of tambourines C86 style and handclaps punctuating boy and girl vocals. I can only just see the tiny, ponytailed female singer. Upping the twee instrument count we get a glockenspiel and a melodica.

lollies lolly By now, the indie massive have consumed an unseemly quantity of alcopops (trips to the rammed bar need military planning) and their blootered chatter rises in a tidal wave that threatens to wash away the band's shimmering sound. This is a shame, as the songs deserve to be listened to carefully. In the end, Camera Obscura outstay their welcome with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of songs and I get fed up trying to concentrate on the music. I'd like to see them again without the background roar so I can really hear that tambourine rattle.
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