Camp Cope How to Socialise & Make Friends

[Run for Cover; 2018]

Styles: indie rock
Others: Jay Som, The Replacements, Diet Cig

Camp Cope hide in plain sight. Couching their music in the warm, comfortable, familiar sounds of indie rock’s last 20 years or so, the Melbourne-based trio of Georgia McDonald, Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich, and Sarah Thompson aren’t trying to turn rock & roll on its head: they reject an experimental bent, decline to use synths, and often stay inside the midtempo range. Yet on How to Socialise & Make Friends, the group’s second album, Georgia (a.k.a. Maq) sings with the passion, verve, and conviction of some of punk rock’s most enduring voices. She shouts and ululates inside the amniote of Hellmrich’s and Thompson’s unimposing rhythm section while voicing the plaints of a new wave of young female musicians who aim to disrupt the genre’s masculinist status quo. Camp Cope are effectors of social change casually blending into the indie crowd, plainclothes guerrillas surreptitiously invading the scene.

Maq’s lyrics are cutting, to be sure. Her most caustic lines refer to spurned romances with duplicitous men, as evidenced on tracks like “The Face of God:” “Could it be true?/ You don’t seem like that kind of guy/ Not you, you’ve got that one song that I like.” Personal, ironic, and dismissive, McDonald’s words give an edge to the sensitive humanist narrator inside these songs, the woman whose vulnerability is routinely met with (primarily male) abuse. In effect, she sings with the self-assuredness of Corin Tucker: often angry, but not without a certain tenderness.

Personal subject matter aside, Camp Cope’s real triumphs are in their politics. How to’s premiere track “The Opener” takes aim at the transparent attempts of music festivals looking to give female artists more exposure by throwing more women’s names on their bills, but doing little else to rectify gender disparity. “’Nah, hey, c’mon girls, we’re only thinking about you,’” Georgia sings, assuming the voice of a blithe talent booker. “’Yeah, just get a female opener. That’ll fill the quota.’” Here, McDonald straddles the line of feminine swagger and highly-deliberated acrimony — the same line Patti mastered all those years ago. Still, for all her ire, Maq remains empathetic and altruistic for much of the album. She commiserates with the lonely homeschooled kid on the title track; she forgives and absolves her terminal father on “I’ve Got You”; and she tries to help the namesake of “Anna” find catharsis in artistic expression. While How to Socialise isn’t the most musically adventurous album, its moments of humanity are what give the band its subtle edge.

Lowell Thomas, paraphrasing a Dale Carnegie theory in the preface of How to Win Friends and Influence People, explains that anger can embolden anyone to confidently speak publicly. Even the most diffident man or woman can be ushered to effectual public oration when properly incensed. Camp Cope stand as a testament to this hypothesis. They’re outwardly timid and quietly pensive much of the time, but when provoked, the band pull no punches as they expound on the gender inequality and double standards to which they’re subject on a regular basis. Bolstered by Kelly-Dawn’s and Sarah’s meat-and-potatoes rhythm foundation, Georgia finds a fitting dais to air her grievances. And if it doesn’t make her any new friends, so be it: are they really her friends, or do they just want something from her?

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