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Summer Camp - Life's a beach
on 24 November 2011
"Ferris Bueller's Day Off", "Pretty in Pink", "The Breakfast Club" and now "Welcome to Condale"? Strange but many have noticed that the new album by London duo Summer Camp comprising Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey seems to bring back memories of those great films by the late John Hughes and pay homage to the themes of suburban teen angst, unrequited love and a nice line in gently cutting humor. The sub plot here is the creation of a fictional California town called Condale populated with a range of characters who appear throughout their songs. In reality it doesn't really amount to hill of beans since the core of this album is the presence of glorious 80s based retro pop songs which are meticulously sung by the brilliant Sankey and given a huge almost Human League style backdrop by Warmsley. The timing on this album could be viewed as out of kilter. Check out the video for the pounding synth pop anthem "Night Train" and its all sea, sun and surfers. Yet a blast of UV Rays into these grey November days is most welcome and this is pop music at it most throwaway and disposable, often with its tongue firmly in its cheek but deeply affectionate and loveable all the same. No song fits this sentiment more than the standout track here "I want you" with its huge waves of undulating synths which pound and roll and halfway through mutuate into choppy Depeche Mode style waves of sound with Sankey's vocal literally dripping sex appeal. The title track is a sort of Jan and Dean for the Twitter generation with its mix of dreamy pop and California imagery. Alternatively "Losing my mind" sees a nice duet between our two protagonists and a singalong chorus designed to infiltrate your band and demand an exorcism to get it out. Most intriguing is "Summer Camp" a sweet love song with excellent instrumentation underpinned by bubbling micro beats and pounding chords, while in a perfect world "Last American virgin" would storm the charts immediately.
Some might argue that Summer Camp are essentially a bunch of Retromaniacs who have spent too far much time listening to Blondie and Yazoo and on times come far to close to crossing the line marked "twee". Yet Sankey is a canny character and knows the source material for this era very well being an ex NME journalist who appears to have got a burning desire to "pick up the tools". On balance we should be thankful she did for this is a genuinely well constructed and pleasurable album with enough cool quality to separate it from the mere run of the mill. Who knows whether this band has any chance of longevity but you suspect that before they run their course a couple of big single hits could be entirely possible plus a short period of world domination. Quite how two Londoners have managed so accurately to produce hymns which capture so accurately USA centred Teen Dreams is a mystery but in the last analysis the heat and the warmth on this album is irresistible.