Camera Obscura: Cynical But Sweet

French Navy


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French Navy

Wednesday's Pick

  • Song: "French Navy"
  • Artist: Camera Obscura
  • CD: My Maudlin Career
  • Genre: Pop

In jaded times, getting swept off one's feet isn't what it used to be. Tracyanne Campbell, lead singer of Glasgow's Camera Obscura, seems to know this better than anyone. In "French Navy," it's hard not to hear the hesitation in the verses: "You and your dietary restriction / Said you loved me with a lot of convention," she sings. Even the stuttering rhythm refuses to give in.

Camera Obscura 300

Camera Obscura's "French Navy" serves up a sparkling pop rush, emotionally and musically. courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of the artist

But then comes the chorus, from its swooping string section to Campbell's declaration of "I wanted to control it / But love, I couldn't hold it." She's swept up in the moment, and so is the song, which suddenly feels like a slice of old-school pop circa 1966. (Imagine a more cynical Lulu.) It obviously won't last, and it doesn't; by song's end, she and her boy have parted ways. But "French Navy" is such a rush, emotionally and musically, that it's the farthest thing from gloomy. You just know there's another temporary soulmate waiting for Campbell right around the corner.

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This story originally ran on May 13, 2009.

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