By Nicola Love
I lost my love of music towards the end of last year. The masks of pop punk’s Nice Guys™ had slipped so far that even those who already knew how fucked things were could no longer pretend they hadn’t seen anything. In a mess of toppled musical heroes and their half-arsed apologies, I was angry and felt like I didn’t belong in ‘the scene’ anymore (if I ever belonged there in the first place).
Enter Camp Cope, a band who’ve never shied away from politics. I turned on How to Socialise and Make Friends expecting something pissed-off and shouty I could feel confident lending my voice – and middle finger – to. What I found was something messier, heartbreaking and ultimately more satisfying.
The album starts simply enough. ‘The Opener’ is a no-nonsense shakedown of sexism in the music industry; a ‘fuck you’ to all-male festival line-ups and promoters fluent in bullshit and bravado. You can practically hear lead singer Georgia McDonald’s eyes roll as she spits, “Just get a female opener, that’ll fill the quota.” The song’s bottom line comes in the form of a raspy battle cry: “Look how far we’ve come not listening to you.”
But if this album is about Camp Cope being angry, the band’s rage quickly manifests itself in other ways. The title track is a bouncy, self-aware number about toxic relationships (“I guess we’ve all got our problems and areas to improve, I know one of mine is to go a night without sympathising with you”). ‘The Face of God’ is a true gut-punching moment as it tackles the hot-button topic of consent and sexual misconduct. Lending its voice to a conversation usually dominated by diehard apologists, the track grapples with blame and self-doubt (“Every light on the way was screaming at me red, now you’ve got me questioning everything I did”). Despite McDonald’s soft vocal delivery, the line “You don’t seem like that kind of guy, you’ve got that one song that I like” hits like a ton of bricks.
If the middle of the album teeters between being heartbroken and hopeful, punchy ‘UFO Lighter’ picks up the pace. Reclaiming some of the album’s earlier brashness, it shakes off a mum’s disapproval about hand tattoos and turns its back on a dysfunctional relationship (“He expected that I was going to fail and run back, well fuck that”). It takes the remnants of the wild night (“We nearly died, shit I’m still amazed how we survived”) and moves forward.
Throughout the album McDonald wears her heart on her sleeve as a lyricist. It comes first in the form of ‘The Omen’, a track which is part lovesick confessional (‘I’ve loved you since I was 17’) while also serving as a break-up anthem for someone you’re not quite ready to give up (“I love you like you never hurt me”). It’s shown off again in vulnerable album closer ‘I’ve Got You’ as the themes of heartbreak and anger are translated into one stripped back, grief-stricken track. A simple strummed acoustic guitar flits between childhood memories and being forced to say goodbye (“I’ll always hear your voice when I speak, I’ll always see your face in me”).
On the surface, How to Make Friends and Socialise seems like an angry album. Faux feminist dude-bros will almost certainly dismiss it as such. But rage isn’t always loud, in-your-face or unapologetic; it’s also quiet, contemplative and, at times, a little defeated. Camp Cope navigate an all-too-relatable journey of defiance, crippling self-doubt and disappointment. In a scene where guitar-playing fuckboys have been lauded for singing about their ‘psycho’ ex-girlfriends, it’s a complex breath of fresh air that is needed more than it’s deserved.
I’ll be back in the pit singing along.