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What's Up For Today?

New York Cool - Ask Miss Wendy

 

New York Cool - Music

A Camp's New Album, Colonia

Reviewed By Matt Boyd

 


A Camp released their latest, Colonia, on April 28th of this year in the United States and on February 2nd everywhere else. A Camp is fronted by the Cardigans’ Nina Persson; her husband, former Shudder to Think guitarist Nathan Larson and Atomic Swing’s Niclas Frisk round out the core. In addition to this lineup of original cast and crew, Smashed Pumpkin James Iha and Joan as Police Woman also lent their talents to this musically dense record. It’s the first release for the outfit since 2001’s self-titled Swedish Grammy-winning A Camp and it’s good.

Over the course of Nina Persson’s career as the metonymic personage at the helm of the Cardigans’ impressive catalog, the youth of her monument’s face has never faltered, nor has the twinge of too-early world-weariness ever failed to bind its wistful girlishness to her refined, strong, and studied voice, be the voice in question that written or sung.

Persson shares her iconic status in this regard only with Kahimi Karie, the paradoxically permanent ingénue who emerged as the doyenne of Tokyo’s ‘90s Shibuya-kei movement. These are, hands down, the most beautiful women- probably the only beautiful women, in rock. Both women stand at a distance from their insurmountable beauty, cool behind their powerfully striking exteriors and styles of delivery. Where Karie more transparently touted her own fetishistic and amplified- yet empty- sexuality, practically reveling in the obvious direction she took from the various artists that lent production and songwriting talent to her records before she began to slowly merge into the increasingly enigmatic background of her recent more experimental work, Perrson is spellbinding in contrast precisely in her lucid avowal of, not romanticization or mystification of, love’s (and its physical coefficient’s) pitfalls. She accomplishes this, even while being an obvious magnet for precisely the kinds of come-ons that lead to the discovery of life and love’s seedier disappointments.

Karie is a pure screen of sex disappearing into her music and her own image in a Warhol-esque sleight of hand- her beauty is designed to promote desire because, beyond her interest in light romance and fashion, she is not engaged enough to be possessed. Persson, on the other hand, with all the negative and cogent laments of heartbreak she sings, renders the subject of her beauty unapproachable or beyond discussion- she will tell of all the low-down things that people will be driven to do to possess great beauty (or anything else) so that we rationally know that pain of being once bitten, twice shy. Yet, there Persson’s perfect personage remains, the elephant in the room you can no longer directly talk about, the cigar that’s forever to remain not a cigar. For an example, listen to “My America” and the line “Move a little bit closer, lay your big dirty hands on my innocence/it’s a cold-hearted world/I’m gonna be your girl/it’s just a little too late to cry/You’re my America.” It’s like she took her tips from a Buzzcocks song- Why can’t I touch it? Oh, yeah, she just told me why.

In A Camp the listener gets the sense that Persson is giving full wing to her abilities and allowing them to stretch to their full impressive span. Eclectic and only nominally countrified, the music follows her anthemic, at most times theatrical vocal compositions’ infinitely extending metaphors into the shade of her favorite lyrical themes- love, alienation, and the inherent violence of our modern world. In the world of her songs, time is always more quickly and mercilessly forcing us to repeat events of banal and apocalyptic drudgery with or against the law. In “Chinatown” she sings, “I set my clock to a bootleg meter, broken hands spinning round and round/I’m on my way just like every day to get milk an kerosene/my reflection in the butcher’s window isn’t me.” People as objects or who discover themselves to be victims- witting or unwitting- populate her songs and play out even in the cover art, where her head with its resigned stare is being plucked from among several others arranged on a white dais for uses (disguise? Something grimmer?) unknown.

The allusions here are dense, piled on top of one another, compounding. It makes sense- in a CNN interview she gave some time ago, she admitted that she’d never learned to play an instrument, worrying that it would break the easy magic of her songwriting and the stories that emerged from it. Her words fit more of a literary, storytelling mold than a senseless pop model.

In “Here are Many Wild Animals,” Persson comments on city life with the line “shipped off to cities stripped of our tongues/now we live in a playground eating our young.” She returns to this Heart of Darkness theme again and again throughout the record. Later in the same song, she sings “come little bastard, come little millionaire/ come, come faster, this is America/ come little rodent, come little carnivore/eat your dinner.” Perhaps moving to New York has been a wellspring of inspiration for her jaded songwriting skills.

Nina Persson has been writing sonatas to cynical disappointment and delivering them from behind her impossibly composed exterior since the ‘90s. What is there a lowly critic the likes of me can say about the oeuvre of this beauty to improve at all on what she, with her acerbic, wry, and trenchantly masterful lyrical ability, has already brought to the understanding of human experience?

There is nothing I can add but incidentals. A Camp is touring Sweden at the moment, and Colonia is available on their website at acamp.net or at Amazon.com.



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