BC Camplight’s music overcomes biography on Deportation Blues

Deportation BluesBrian Christinzio’s backstory has often threatened to overshadow the music of his alter alias BC Camplight, to the extent it’s almost easier to find biographical detail than any discussion of his prior work. As well trodden as it might be, it seems necessary to divulge one key detail, which is that the American native was the victim of deportation from the UK for visa overstay. Deportation Blues is not to be read as a potentially trite commentary on wider (and more troubling) anti-immigration sentiment, but as a personal story - most directly addressed in the playfully Dickensian title track.

Christinzio had found himself in Manchester to escape a troubled past in Philadelphia (get this – War On Drugs were originally his backing band) but an injury prevented him from leaving before the expiry date, and thus he found himself on the wrong side of Theresa’s May Home Office. He was temporarily barred from the country, but he's back for a series of dates in the autumn, so presumably, it’s all cool now…

After royally failing to not get bogged down in biography, there’s one last thing that seems worth mentioning. In a 2015 interview with The Guardian (if you want more backstory, that’s where to get it), Christinzio claims he never listens to any music, and hasn’t since he was about 20 – which is around the year 2000 by our reckoning. It’s odd, because his baroque psychedelia certainly carries the weight of numerous forbears, though it checks out, because they’re all from the 1900s.

His previous work has seen him compared to a low-rent Brian Wilson, but it seems the influence that hangs heaviest over Deportation Blues is Bowie; from glam rock piano to a wobbly cosmic keyboard, the lack of respect for the limitations of genre, and certainly in his often laconic vocal delivery and pacing, using his own limitations as strengths.

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Would it be too easy to call this album a paean to his adopted home, from which he found himself removed? His playing of the Morrissey and Johnny Marr parts in “I’m in a Weird Place Now”, the Siouxsie & the Banshees-echoing camp horror of “Fire in England”, and the latter-day Beatles honky tonk music hall of “When I Think of my Dog”, among other things, make it very hard not to… Additionally, Christinzio's admission that’s he’s being dramatic after declaring that he hates that shit, a verse earlier in “Midnight Ease”, is worthy of Jarvis Cocker, and his refusal to take anything too seriously has got a bit of the 90s-Damon Albarn about it.

The album's highlight is the vital “I’m Desperate”, by far the most bombastic piece on the album, delivered with a swagger and gusto that once again recalls the Thin White Duke. In all, it’s a hugely enjoyable and accomplished collection of songs – which is really what we ought to have led with. 2015’s How to Die in the North showed many of the same strengths. Maybe, we need to pay less attention to Christinzio, and more to BC Camplight.

Release: Bella Union, 24th August 2018

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