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Koko, London 19/04/07

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Camera Obscura - Koko, London

(Thursday April 26, 2007 3:13 PM )

Gig played on 19/04/07

What would John Peel make of the 2007 music scene were he still alive, wonders Yahoo! Music? Can you imagine him championing the barely there "new rave" movement? How would he approach next month's interstellar bleep-funk Foals and Battles double bill in London? Perhaps he'd travel to the Scala in the back of a mathematical equation? Or maybe he'd rather journey home on a train from Liverpool Street, roaring through the Essex countryside towards Ipswich and his Pig with a blast of Camera Obscura?

Peel was, famously, an enormous fan of the incomparably fey Scottish indie stars. And it's a terrible shame he passed away without, presumably, experiencing surely their defining moment. In fact, "Lloyd I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken" is easily one of 2006's greatest pop moments and perhaps the reason Camera Obscura have swollen the ranks of their fanbase to tonight's extent. So it is that we find ourselves in the charming environs of Koko, as that very song throws its rainbow of Spector "Wall Of Sound" colour into the air, towards the sparkle of what looks like the world's biggest glitter ball.

This evening the swooning six-piece do themselves no favours in defying the clichés such a band inevitably attracts. And why should they? Camera Obscura come from a tradition of dreamy, ornate, bookish over the border guitar bands, as quintessentially formed as Iceland's Sigur Ros or New York's The Rapture. Elegantly forlorn singer Tracyanne Campbell, looking very much like an unfulfilled school teacher, could surely stand-in with Belle & Sebastian, The Delgados or My Latest Novel at a moments notice. Arab Strap, admittedly, might be a bit of a push.

It's during the disarming "Country Mile", when Campbell yearns "the singer in the band made me want to cry", before revealing "I don't believe in true love anyway", that all this coalesces. And it's utterly beautiful. Not that this group are incapable of kicking in and putting on a show to escape all the lonesome, doomy romance. Lush opener "Come Back Margaret" moves stridently beyond the hand-claps, while new single "Tears For Affairs" is all enveloping harmonies and that essential instrument of wist - the trumpet.

However, with the dashing "Let's Get Out Of This Country", "Lloyd I'm Ready To Heartbroken" and "If Looks Could Kill" we really let our hair down. Across these songs there are vaguely punishing drums, a muddled "mash-up" of Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al", enough tambourine action to induce a badly sprained wrist and, most amazingly, a twin percussive attack that sees Campbell thrashing a cymbal in the style of fellow countrymen the Beta Band. And as Koko is filled with rapturous applause, following a show-stopping cover of Abba's "Super Trooper", we can only conclude that John Peel would surely have missed the last train for this.

by Ben Gilbert










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