Review of How To Die In The North Album by BC Camplight

BC Camplight is the sardonic, slightly bruised alter ego of Brian Christinzio, a former New Jerseyian now relocated in Manchester, via stints playing with Stateside indie cause celebres Sharon Van Etten and The War On Drugs. Whilst the latter's hazy take on blue collar rock continues to find a fuzzy glow in even the stoniest critic's heart, BC arrived in the North of England after finding that his life had imitated that of John Grant's art: haunted by an adolescence spent with bouts of depression and hypochondria, Grant's win against dependency is something from which he draws inspiration.

BC Camplight How To Die In The North Album

'How To Die In The North' is a title then to be viewed with a large Mancunian dollop of perspective, given that it deliberately belies a love for the city which continues to embrace occasional boho troubadours like Nancy Elizabeth. This duplicity is, however, very fitting if used as a stylistic barometer for its songs, as Christinzio throughout takes a particularly familiar sound and applies a sub-layer of darkness that nestles just beneath, much like the rest of the shark under the fin.

What this means is that we get some obvious touch points - opener 'You Should Have Gone To School' reprises the imperious pop-psychedelia of The Shins in their 'Wincing The Night Away' period - but the lyrical self deprecation of Grant is absent. What there is a match for though, is in an ability to subvert the form: the MOR schmaltz and cheesy harmonies of 'Just Because I Love You' sounds like Air in far too much taffeta, but the subject seems to be only distantly related to relationships, with the singer dolefully saying "I'm so lonely and broken" and that all this effort for "Such an ugly girl". And we thought romance was dead.

Bittersweet, then? In spades our kid, as his new place of residence rubs off on him, although the Mariachi horns, recherché strings and part military gait which all crop up at some point during 'Thieves In Antigua' would sound like an idea too many in almost any town. It's equally true to say there's a similar kind of maverick lunacy at work here on songs like 'Grim Cinema' we associate with Ariel Pink at his most coherent, whilst the scuzzy, bombastic craic of 'Lay Me On The Floor' confirms the suspicion that 'How To Die In The North' - and Christinzio - run out of both steam and tunes as time goes on.   

For a man that's spent years looking introspectively, what remains here underneath the uber sardonic frontage is a brave, slightly tormented vista. To be clear, this is no 'Queen of Denmark', but then again nor could it be. Over-wrought, over creative and over here, Brian Christinzio may yet find the cobbled streets are paved with gold, but would for now be best advised to stick with one twisted obsession at a time.


Andy Peterson

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