Summer Camp: a childhood pastime or one of alternative pop’s most talked-about bands? The answer is both — but the musical duo have recently been turning heads and taking names with their trendy grooves. However, the group’s premiere full-length album, Welcome to Condale, doesn’t quite deliver on the hype.

Summer Camp

Welcome to Condale
Moshi Moshi


The band, composed of Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey, hails from London and has succeeded in developing an enigmatic veil around its music for over two years. The duo lay the nostalgia on thick, but it doesn’t feel as effortless as it should — memories are meant to be natural.

Instead, it’s forced with heightened reverb, fuzzy vocals and — get this — on the song “Ghost Train,” with a sample from Cameron Crowe’s 1989 film “Say Anything… .” One track is actually called “1988.” Summer Camp would do better to apply overtones of the era subtly and let the influences seep into the music rather than plastering them so boldly across the songs.

It’s a bit ironic that the album is so conceptually blatant, since the duo have worked to remain mysterious since their band’s creation — they even kept their identities concealed for some time thereafter. In this case, the music doesn’t match the persona they’ve crafted.

That said, there is enough promising material on Welcome to Condale to keep listeners happy. “Better Off Without You,” one of the band’s most popular tracks and the record’s opener, starts with something of an old-fashioned brass recording and quickly morphs into a lovable pop-rock tune. With a cheery tempo, syncopated claps and understated background vocals, this song is a fantastic take on the typical “screw you” anthem.

“Down,” while a touch repetitive, features an intriguing bass line, fuzzed-out guitars and snappy percussion, showcasing Sankey’s commendable vocal chops. “Last American Virgin” toys with a swooping whistle beat and synthesizer-like percussion. It feels deviously eerie in a charming sort of way, though the vocals are plainly not as tight as on most of the other tracks.

With “Brian Krakow,” Summer Camp takes retro ’80s-esque production to a new level — the techniques used in the track’s creation are admirable. For some it might be a little much to handle, but if this is the kind of thing that floats your boat, then consider it unsinkable with this track.

However, the album is so monotonous that after just a couple of songs, listeners will need to put down their headphones and take a break before continuing. When all is said and listened to, Welcome to Condale is worth a few plays, but not necessarily a full purchase. Summer Camp relies so much on its nostalgic tone that it appears the band has forgotten to make sure that every track is solid and varied within that concept.

But don’t count Summer Camp out just yet — the duo may eventually find a way to get their point across sans John Cusack’s goofy voice ringing, “But I wanna get hurt!”

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