Let’s Get Out of This Country

Band: Camera Obscura
Album: Let’s Get Out of This Country
Best song: “Tears for Affairs” is brilliant.
Worst song: “If Looks Could Kill” isn’t great.

It’s of no surprise that Camera Obscura’s first album was recorded by Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian. Seemingly, every writeup of the band has a reference to the shared Glasgow hometown and similar sound of the bands.

However, on the band’s third album, Camera Obscura somehow became a more interesting band. Removing male vocalist John Henderson from the mix made for a great record. Wrapped in Swedish production and a more widely spun worldview, 2005’s Let’s Get Out of This Country is a brilliant collection of indie pop music.

Just an aside here, and one often repeated on this site. I fell ass backwards into listening to this record. I was a subscriber to eMusic for a few years — and no, they don’t pay me to extoll their virtues, especially considering I’m no longer a custome — and one of the grand joys of eMusic was the ability to take a flyer on an album.

I’m not the world’s biggest B+S fan — I’ve seen them live, but talk more shit on them than anything else — but Let’s Get Out Of This Country was so wildly praised in the music press, I took a flyer on it. When you have 90 downloads a month, spending 10 on some Glasgow indie pop band is no big thing.

And, like many of my non-Mogwai eMusic downloads, I barely listened to the record for almost two years. Certainly, my Rolling Stone project was a factor in this; I was listening to so little new music that I tabled most everything not on that confounded list.

Cut to last fall.

I had started dating a girl; I was totally enraptured in her in that way that only the “getting to know you” way can bring. In those initial stages, I promised her a slew of mixtapes and found myself searching my collection for stuff she’d not heard.

One of the finds was Let’s Get Out of This Country, specifically the romp that is “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken.” Written as a reply to 1980s Glasgow band Lloyd and the Commotions’ hit “Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?,” the song dances around a sweet guitar riff. In it, Tracyanne Campbell — no relation to Isobel Campbell, formerly of B+S — begins the song with a flourish:

He said “I’ll protect you like you are the crown jewels” yet
Said he’s feeling sorrier for me the more I behave badly I can bet.

Like the rest of the record, “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken” is a song about failed love and misery. In the case of the title track, this misery is directed at one’s lot in life. Feeling restless, Campbell’s lyric speaks of a wonderful love in need of a relocation. She repeatedly asks, in her sugary sweety voice, “What does this city have to offer me?

Built around swirling strings and a lead guitar line that takes as much from chamber pop as it does from Dick Dale, “Let’s Get Out of This Country” is a hummable, lovely track.

Exploring the band’s different influence seems to be a pasttime on the album. The album closer, “Razzle Dazzle Rose” works a horn and jangly guitar into the mix, while a skiffle drumbeat moves the song along. “Dory Previn” is a hurt love song set against a hopalong-on-quaaludes beat.

The highlight of the record, is similarly, gorgeous. “Tears for Affairs” is led by an organ line so catchy it should be illegal. Campbell’s more accessible lyric — “you had to drive, look me in the eye” — falls over said organ and some background harmonies as the song builds. An accordion falls in and out, while Campbell cries into her beer over a lost love. Taking a competitive — read: male — look at the breakup, her anger belies the record’s tender-while-still-upbeat arrangement.

It’s a song — and an album — that doesn’t drive into new lyrical terriroty, but uses the band’s strengths in a different way. Interesting and new, Let’s Get Out of This Country is Camera Obscura’s best record.

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    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

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