Release Date: Mar 24, 2015
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Hailing from the Manchester of Ian Curtis and The Fall rather than that of Bez and The Stone Roses, LoneLady – AKA Julie Campbell – serves up a deceptively danceable brand of post-punk on the follow up to her rapturously well received debut, 2010’s Nerve Up. Part two has been long in the works, and it wastes no time expanding beyond the taut borders of its predecessor; Hinterland’s comparatively rich textures suggesting that, whatever else has happened in Campbell’s life over the course of the last five years, she’s grown to become a more accomplished writer and performer. Yet her approach is essentially unchanged: allude to hometown influences – and the hometown itself – without regurgitating wholesale; concoct a mish-mash solution that balances shape-throwing grooves with bare introversions; continue to explore a central theme of lonely nervousness in post-industrial environs.
There was little indication back in 2010 that inside Julie Campbell laid a dormant pop star just waiting to make a collection of songs sleek by design, entrenched in funk and designed to make you dance. Her debut of five years ago, Nerve Up, excelled in skeletal indie, full of eye twitching paranoia and itchy guitars. This time ‘round, she’s overcome her reticence to get loose, and come up with an evocative pop record full of complexity and heavy on the groove.
During the five years between Nerve Up and Hinterland, Lonelady's Julie Campbell built a home studio, released the 2011 album Psychic Life with Jah Wobble and Keith Levene, and then withdrew into a period of introspection. After exploring and holing up in Manchester's decaying outskirts, she returns with some of her biggest-sounding and most kinetic music. While Nerve Up was a rough gem full of angular punk-funk and brisk acoustic pop made all the more striking in its juxtapositions, the way Campbell brings these sounds together on Hinterland is just as compelling.
Manchester artists are sometimes accused of being overly in thrall to their city’s musical heritage, yet this is something Julie Campbell positively embraces on her second album. Into the Cave opens proceedings with a bassline as forebodingly funky as anything A Certain Ratio could muster, whereas Bunkerpop’s mechanical rhythms and icy synths recall Joy Division’s Isolation. Campbell refuses to deal simply in facsimile, though – rather, she uses these reference points knowingly to tell a sonic story about her home city’s post-industrial landscape and mindset.
Julie Campbell isn't one to rush into things. Her second album's been half a decade in the making, arriving just a little over five years after the release of her debut as LoneLady, Nerve Up. She's been off the radar for a while, having collaborated with Jah Wobble and Keith Levene for an LP in 2011 before going incognito for a few years. From the sound of things, Hinterland has been every bit as meticulously put together as its predecessor, Campbell choosing to work with a wider variety of sounds than we last heard from LoneLady.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. It is a common artistic fall-back to draw on one's surroundings. This can be said especially for Manchester. If it weren't for a skyline of post-war council flats (le Corbousier's utopian dream turned nightmare), juxtaposed against its industrial Victorian structures, Joy Division would not have its monochromatic photoshoots and The Smiths would be one Salford Lads Club short.
There is a danger in consigning a geographical girdle to an artist's output, the relentless tendency toward defining a city's 'sound' proving no more useful than, say, the music journalist's penchant for intellectualising an artist's tics. No more so than when it comes to Manchester, whose speculative sound is mythical in status – a status not simply content to evoke riffs, tones and working-class politics, but one that by its very nature is finite. Nostalgia for the golden age of Manchester bands – The Smiths, New Order, Magazine, Joy Division, The Fall – demands that new artists perform a wistful homage (vintage, classic) or risk operating beyond the popular canon of hometown heroes.
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