Music Reviews
How to Socialise & Make Friends

Camp Cope How to Socialise & Make Friends

(Run For Cover) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

“See how far we’ve come not listening to you,” Georgia Maq laughs on the opening track of the Melbourne band’s second record. The Opener is perhaps best used as a mission statement for Camp Cope as a band, as it’s brazen and uncompromising, managing to cut through music industry bullshit with snark.  At this stage, it’s a deserved attitude for Maq to have. Their self-titled record was one of the best debuts of 2016, and with word spreading across the Pacific ocean, How to Socialise and Make Friends is likely an introduction to one of the most vital bands in indie rock.

After the first two tracks, though, the tone noticeably changes. How to Socialise… doesn’t feel as immediate as the debut - it’s hardly reserved, and it does move at a slightly slower pace. Every line feels a little more considered, and while it might take a bit of more patience, it allows Maq some space to excel as a lyricist. The turning point is album standout, The Face of God, a stunning account of a sexual assault and the feelings of isolation felt in the aftermath. Maq finds herself having to hear her experiences questioned by people who are too afraid of their perception of a musician being ruined. She remains taunted by the encounter when she sees her abuser being redeemed while she still suffers: “You can see it in apologists, and hear it in the songs.” There are few songs that seem as timely, and ultimately bleak, as Maq almost sighs while repeating “they said your music is too good” with the guitar petering out, and no real sense of conclusion. 

It’s a red herring that this is an angry record, however. It is impassioned and political, but most of the album is more life-affirming than alienating. These are songs about solidarity and overcoming adversity, either through specifically female friendship or finding that strength introspectively. And musically this is a record in the same vein as Modern Baseball or Hop Along - when everything falls into place there are moments when Camp Cope show that they are on their way to surpassing their peers. On Sagan-Indiana, a tribute to a departed friend, the recall of “Sagan-Indiana, never saw where she was named after” opens up to a wonderful closing refrain of “she said it didn’t matter, I found me. I found me.” The Omen sees Maq delicately balancing her thoughts about moving away from home: “I’m turning onto your street, and I love you like you never hurt me.” While much of the publicity has understandably been on the political nature of the album, it’s more personable than an overtly political record.

It does feel - and members of the band have said as much themselves - strange for men (this writer included) to be reviewing this album with any authority because it's clearly not for them. For everyone else, it's validation for their experiences, and that's a powerful thing considering the allegations against a lot of their more famous contemporaries. The album closes with Maq performing solo with a song about grief, as she did on the debut. Song for Charlie saw Maq reach her hand out to help Charlie through the passing of his father; here, Maq turns the focus on herself. I’ve Got You details her friendship with her father while she saw his health deteriorate. She tells him, “I’m so proud that half of me grew from you / all the broken parts too”. The album closes with Maq trailing off until it comes to an abrupt end, before Maq stands up and leaves the studio with a curt “alright I’m done.” 

It’s a harshly appropriate end to an album where Maq expends so much emotion. Of course, Maq would rather not have to write about the grief, or about assault or lack of representation, but it does feel like she had to for her own sake, if nothing else. If Camp Cope managed to anger a lot of Facebook commenters, assault-apologists and vindictive men by having the nerve to discuss these issues on their debut, then I'm happy to report they’ll hate this record even more.