BC Camplight – How To Die In The North (2 stars)

Brain Christinzio's third album of chipper psychedelic pop is unfocused and echos a lot of other artists including ELO and Super Furry Animals

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BC Camplight – How To Die In The North

(Bella Union)

In what sounds like a moment of toe-curling self-abasement that has all present staring awkwardly at their feet, Brian Christinzio aka BC Camplight has been known to describe himself as ‘the guy who blew it’. While things have gone swimmingly of late for his former jam-buddies Sharon Van Etten and The War on Drugs, this New Jersey-born, formerly Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter and virtuoso pianist has practically gone into self-imposed exile after seeing his One Little Indian-released first two albums largely sink without trace. ‘You should have gone to school, you fool,’ goes the chorus to the opening track of the same name, as Christinzio perhaps fantasises about an alternative career path.

For reasons unclear, Christinzio has relocated to Manchester to dream it all up again, hooking up with a UK label in Bella Union for his third offering How To Die In The North. Its name evokes Boys From the Blackstuff slate-grey social realism. But the music is frequently too damn chipper to fool anyone into thinking Christinzio might be native to the northwest: Brian Wilson-esque West Coast pop harmonies and rays of sunshiney, if psychically fraught psychedelia abound.

Intentionally or otherwise, there’s a little of an awful lot of other artists suggested by BC Camplight’s music. ‘Grim Cinema’ echoes early Super Furry Animals’ speedy, eccentric fuzz-pop; the strange and pretty ‘Just Because I Love You’ is a kind of shiny, dreamy brass-burnished ballad with shades of ELO, while Christinzio’s vocals on the downbeat ‘Good Morning Headache’ sound to the very detail of diction like British Sea Power’s Yan Scott Wilkinson. That feeling of ‘heard it done before, and better’ just keeps recurring throughout this unfocused album, which leaves you with precious little sense of exactly who Christinzio is and what he’s all about. You could imagine him presenting a valued asset as a sideman and foil to a writer of truer inspiration. But ‘the guy who blew it’? It’s debatable exactly what he had to blow.

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