Release Date: Nov 8, 2011
Record label: Moshi Moshi Records
Genre(s): Alternative Pop/Rock
A warm sea of synths and funky drum machines open Summer Camp’s full-length Welcome to Condale. It’s a charming affair, filled with boy-girl harmonies with a splash of retro charm—made even more anachronistic by the inclusion of 1980s film samples. But under the bubble-gum exterior are two top-shelf musicians elevating teen-pop tropes—such as a Spector girl-group refrain (“Ghost Train”) or playful vocal sparing (“Losing My Mind”)—into thoroughly modern kiss-offs.
Unless you were a boy/girl duo in music over the past 18 months, you stood no chance. Sorry [a]Viva Brother[/a], but the alt. pop crowd currently demand sexual frisson and chick-flick suspense for their buck.
Had they formed in the 80s, London boy?girl duo Summer Camp would have been a fixture on brat pack film soundtracks. Their dreamy debut is shot through with regard for the years when synth-pop ruled the charts and Molly Ringwald was a national sweetheart. Typical is the hazy "Summer Camp", which samples Kelly LeBrock in John Hughes's Weird Science, while the euphoric "1988" is Toni Basil by way of indie-pop.
In 2010, London duo Summer Camp issued the promising six-track Young EP. Lead single, "Round the Moon," and its excellent found-footage music video, alligned well with the indie rock universe's recent adoration for the the 1980s. A silly MySpace backstory/ publicity stunt, where the pair said the band was a group of Swedes that met at summer camp, obviously struck a chord with a fearful Web 2.0 world where most kids never experience the awkward thrills of an actual summer camp.
The attractive members of U.K. duo Summer Camp are precocious, but not overly precious—that is, their boy-girl harmonies and synth-pop innocence are less grating than one might assume. In fact, Summer Camp’s debut Welcome to Condale is a rather diverse affair for being essentially a good-time summer pop record. Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley give us the fictional ’burb of Condale to spin their yarns of teen spirit and lost love.
When it comes to reviewing debuts of up-and-coming acts, the standard approach is to draw parallels to similar bands. For Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley, aka Summer Camp, that comparison will inevitably be towards not another band or sub-genre, but filmmaker John Hughes. Produced by Pulp’s Steve Mackey, the London duo’s debut album, Welcome to Condale, is the musical equivalent of a long-lost Hughes film from the 80s.
Aaaahhhh, Summer Camp. All wry-eyed innocence and romance. Small towns, first time loves and terrible human let downs. Plying their ‘more-civilised-than-thou’ gentle party pop, this London duo (Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley… yes… that Jeremy Warmsley) have pretty much secured their daytime radio playlistings with the songs contained herein.
Summer Camp’s 2010 EP Young signaled the arrival of a band with a really strong idea: taking '80s-influenced pop songs and running them through the murky chillwave sound (lots of wobbly synths, vocal reverb, and tinny drum machines) to end up with a sound that was akin to a David Lynch version of a John Hughes teen movie, a chilly, weird take on the '80s bolstered by Elizabeth Sankey’s brilliant voice and very strong hooks. On their first full LP, Welcome to Condale, Sankey is still astonishingly good, sounding like she could be a total diva but still having the restraint to fit herself snugly into the constraints of the songs. What’s changed is that the overall feel is less Lynch and more Hughes as the duo (Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley) has erased most of the warped weirdness from Summer Camp's sound, playing it relatively straight throughout.
Condale, the California town that's the focal point of UK indie pop duo Summer Camp's debut LP, Welcome to Condale, doesn't actually exist. It was invented by SC members Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley; to drive the whole conceptual thing home, the band's created a zine pressed in limited physical quantities and available to view on their website (hint: click on "Condale"); along with narrative-extending diary entries and fake interviews with faker bands, there's the cover to a 1977 issue of Penthouse, a poster for the obscure 1974 skin flick Teenage Milkmaid, and the cover of the February 27, 1984 issue of Jet, which features an image of Brooke Shields and Michael Jackson together. On the upper right corner of the band's website, there's a by-the-minute update on the current date and time-- with two small alterations: the year is listed as 1984, and it's specified that no matter where you are, you're living under "Condale Time" for the moment.
Granted, the memory will play its tricks, but wasn't being a kid in the 80s a simple affair? Not according to Summer Camp. While their indie brethren use simplistic music to signify simplistic times, the Londoners' busy debut clashes the customary synthy signifiers against all manner of hyperreal ear candy, evoking a Reagan era childhood made garish, unnaturally intense, and overstimulated by the golden age of Americanisation. Produced by Pulp's Steve Mackey, Welcome to Condale conflates loops, house beats, movie samples, synth metal guitars, deep bass and fancy drum sounds, conjuring the mental state of a generation whose grasp on reality was forever diminished by Spielbergian suburbia, Drew Struzan posters and the heightened perfection of John Hughes' middle-class teenhood: electric dreams that wiped the floor with real life in sleepy, grey Britain.
Bouncing around the blogosphere since posting its first songs online, the London-based Summer Camp has steadily created buzz for itself, and finally releases its debut album, Welcome To Condale. As Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley told The Independent, much of their music is inspired by classic John Hughes ’80s movies, sometimes using sound clips from movies of that era at the beginning of songs. And the California town that listeners are being welcomed to is a lot like Hughes’ Shermer, IL, in that it is also fictional.
Duo’s debut is a wryly appealing turning point in the art of romanticised retrospection. Laura Snapes 2011 In the opening chapter to Jon Savage’s Teenage, he contrasts the lives of two young people who rose to prominence in the late 1800s, and gave rise to the perception of those formative years as a state separate from childhood and adulthood: Russian debutante Marie Bashkirtseff and Massachusetts murderer Jesse Pomeroy. Whilst they were notorious for very different reasons – respectively indulgent memoirs and infanticide – their legends achieved maximum potency due to the hasty ends to their lives.