Who Are The Trumping Men?
"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.