It's Beyond Our Control
"Little short of a classic..." - NME
Instinct-Tension, Motown Clic, Who Are The Trumping Men?, Vindictive-Disco, Metro-Boulot-Dodo, Phantom (edit), Stranded By The Reebox, Sunset Strip Eclipse, Me And A Foe, Obsessed With Gloom, The Silencer, Ain't No Funki Tangerine
A lengthy five years on from ground-breaking debut album Bon Chic Bon Genre, Campag Velocet at last resurface with product, and well worth the wait it is too. This stunning, eclectic release produced by Brian O'Shaughnessy (Primal Scream) traverses more musical genres than half a floor of a Virgin Megastore. Vindictive-Disco and killer opener Instinct-Tension combine driving indie guitar rock with Pete Vosss Keith Flint-style vocals; Lyrical miracle method in the madness, I want to escape this pain and sadness. The brilliantly named next single Who Are The Trumping Men? is a blend of insistent beats, sprawling sax and a sound as of someone whacking an anvil, shot through with Ian Caters sparse jagged guitar. Like most of the tracks its repetitive, but utterly compelling.
Metro Boulot Dodo has a krautrocky feel, full of electronic squelches and more blips than a thousand life support machines, quite fitting considering the Living isnt everything, But dying is decline lyric. Sunset Strip Eclipse is beautifully serene jazzy mood music, built around simple piano and dreamy guitar, before going techno halfway through, while Me And A Foe is a staccato, fuzz-guitared Stoogian rocker, contrasting sharply with the slow funky grooves of Obsessed With Gloom that follow like something from a Shaft movie. The album ends in vicious style with the 7 minute tour de force Aint No Funki Tangerine, a little Firestarter-ish here and there, a pulsating beast of brutal imagery (And I will draw blood from your skull, And I will watch you drown in your own vomit) propelled along by pounding drumbeats, before a return to the beguiling and becalming Sunset Strip Eclipse. As dark and seedy as a Soho back alley, this album is destined to become an underground classic.
Sound XP Campags return is a triumph, and its surprising how good it is to have them back.
"We Got The Noise" by Paul Moody
The truth is, great rock'n'roll albums don't come around that often. Cast an eye back over those end-of-year polls in NME and the monthlies over the last few years and you realise that despite valiant attempts-from bands and journo's alike- the fact is that since the turn of the century we've been going through a period of revisionism, where the survival of rock's spirit has been cause for celebration rather than actual progress. Which brings us to 'It's Beyond Our Control'.
Pete: "Rock'n'roll has become a formula and we're the opposite to that. This isn't music for people to listen to at the weekends or when they're driving around in their flash cars. Our music reflects something else. It's confrontational. Anyway, I don't want to make it easy, it's better if it needs to be decoded."
Those seduced by the sleazy, enigma-machine rattle'n'roll of Campag's #debut 'Bon Chic Bon Genre' can rest easy: the liquid rhythm section of Barney'n'Lascelles, Pete's scrabble-board lyricism and guitarist Ian 'Arge' Cater's John McGeogh-esque guitars are all still present and correct.
It's just that after five years of false starts and dashed hopes, 'It's Beyond Our Control' (released on the ever-clued-up Pointy Records on Monday 12th July) does what all great albums must: it reflects the times we're living in. And if the music wasn't valedictory enough (don't worry, we'll get to that) then lyrical miracles like 'I've been around/ Knocked down/Now I'm back again/ Coup d'etat/ Pandemonium!' from the gorgeous 'Motown Clic' tell their own story.
Pete: 'It takes a while to write the songs because I piece the words together bit by bit. There's only two songs on the record which I wrote straight off. But they all fit together. People get mocked and bullied for doing things outside the cultural and class stereotypes,but that's all part of what we do. We're never going to fit into the mainstream,Ķ.'
As you'd imagine, Campag's roots run deep. Formed by Pete and Arge in late-eighties Portsmouth over a shared love of Schooly D and Public Enemy, the duo lived out their teenage rock'n'roll fantasies in clubland. Relocated to the capital, they hatched a plan to create a rock'n'roll band which reflected their love of everything from Marvin Gaye to Clockwork Orange to Suicide, all burnished with a scrupulous, fashion-hawk's eye for detail. Cue Campag Velocet.
After a stint as clubland cause celebres, they found their nadsat-heavy debut single 'Drencon Velocet Synthemesc' installed as an NME Single Of The Week in November '97 and their splenetic live performances heralded as the saving grace of a stagnant rock scene.
Duly signed to Pias, they saw the sublime 'To Lose La Trek' scrape the edges of the top seventy-five whilst debut album 'Bon Chic Bon Genre' managed to cross-pollinate everything from PiL-esque pop ('Only Answers Delay Our Time') to electro sleaze trank-outs ('Schiaparelli Cat') years before either electro-clash or the current Stooges- heavy guitar insurgence. Their reward, an NME front cover, saw them dressed inevitably, in preparation for a fencing tournament. Then, nothing. What happened, Pete?
'I think maybe at the time it was too much for people. We were obstructed from doing what we wanted for various reasons and it got very frustrating. Times are slowly changing. There are signs that people who understood what we were doing then are getting into bands or getting into positions of power themselves.'
Indeed. Anyone who doubts Campag's subversive cachet need only glance toward pop culture to trace their legacy. From the gritty realism of The Streets to the host of urchin-rock bands on the rise (Eighties Matchbox, Selfish Cunt and The Others are all long-term fans) Pete Voss's wayward spirit still holds sway.
If other sins of their influence are more insidious- Campag are included on both the soundtrack of terrorist-flick 'Baader' and Playstation's 'The Getaway' (in the lap-dancing scene, inevitably), it's only proof their idiosyncratic vision has never totally slipped out of view.
All of which brings us to 'It's Beyond Our Control'. Recorded at Bark Studio's with Brian O'Shaughnessy (who recorded 'Screamadelica' there) it is quite simply a tour de force. Mixing everything from strip-club funk to pulverising rock'n'roll anthems to Ennio Morricone like electro dream-scapes, it sounds and feels like the perfect soundtrack to life in the capital mid-decade, all with the best song-titles in rock: 'Metro Boulet Dodo' (a French aphorism for the mundanity of commuting) 'Sunset Strip Eclipse'; check 'em out for yourself. If it's by turns bleak and beautiful, then that's because it reflects the thrill'n'horror of going out in graphic detail.
'Some of the lyrics are quite vicious, but I wanted to reflect what I see around me' explains Pete. 'It's not meant to be comfortable, because life isn't comfortable.'
Anyone doubting Campag's capacity to write sure-fire rock hits meanwhile should be directed at once to new single 'Vindictive Disco' which manages to incorporate a black-hearted lyricism Morrissey or Mark E.Smith would kill for: 'Wet myself in a Bugger King/ Slipped a disc by the fag machine/Got chucked down the stairs again/Gone and cracked my head again.'
Campag Velocet. You know it. Those end-of-year polls won't know what's hit them.
See you in the speakers.