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If their self-titled debut was Camp Cope chipping away at the iceberg, How To Socialise & Make Friends is the Titanic ramming into it at full speed, destroying every ounce of formerly implied safety in a merciless display of visceral, unhinged emotion.
From fire-eyed confrontations of music industry sexism (The Opener) to pained musings of storied friendships (Anna, Sagan-Indiana) and defeated reflections of sexual assault (The Face Of God), emotions are fervent and undoubtedly more assured on the second outing from Melbourne’s most outspoken punk goddesses. There’s a boldness to the way frontwoman Georgia Maq pours them into her lyrics, and her vocals are always strewn in genuine passion: if she isn’t pensively needling at the heartstrings, she’s spitting straight fire with a harsh, pitiless yell.
It’s in the tangling of those dynamics that Camp Cope first hook you in on LP2. Maq’s vocals sit upfront in the mix, leading the song alongside her instead of vice versa (as is common in folkier and more emo-leaning corners of punk). She’s dazzling as a guitarist, but it’s Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich that glitters in the spotlight with sharp and melodic basslines that get stuck in your head like gum to shoes. All cinched together with booming drums from the invaluable Sarah Thompson, every element is crucial to each song and gels in such a way that How To Socialise & Make Friends just feels like three best mates jamming their hearts out together. That’s not to say the record isn’t masterfully composed, though–every sonorant pluck of Kelly’s bass has its place, every angular pop of a snare jutting perfectly against Maq’s vocals.
The trio will only get louder and go on to dominate bigger stages, and it goes without saying that we’re all chomping at the bit to see it unfold.
The biggest step up from the self-titled album comes lyrically: Camp Cope’s 2016 opus revelled in lowkey stories of Maq’s personal crises, but here, we see her square up to heavier and more worldly topics. The Opener is outright searing in its poignancy, a misogyny-shredding chorus making it an unfaultable battlecry for a new generation of musicians intolerant of gatekeeping. The Face Of God is a standout for its punchy melody, but also–more importantly–for its polarising confrontation of sexual assault in the music scene. Its chorus addresses a toxic narrative prevalent whenever a musician is outed–“Could it be true? You couldn’t do that to someone / Not you, nah your music is too good”–and given the current landscape where the shady histories of former emo mainstays are being unmasked every other week, it feels especially powerful. More so, it feels necessary.
It’ll be interesting to see where Camp Cope go from here. They’ve spent a short three years growing into some of the most authentic leaders in the scene, but it doesn’t feel at all like this is their peak. The trio will only get louder and go on to dominate bigger stages, and it goes without saying that we’re all chomping at the bit to see it unfold. For now, though, How To Socialise & Make Friends is a perfect snapshot of the Camp Cope we see at the cusp of 2018: a band with spirits as high as their potential and a message as powerful as their songs. More than that, it’s just a perfect album, full stop.
STANDOUT TRACKS: UFO Lighter, Sagan-Indiana, The Face Of God
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