Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Camera Obscura, "Teenager" (2003)


I'm pointing to the "official" video but it looks more like one of those homemade jobs not least because I can't make out what camping has fuck-all to do with this song, which seems to me more at play in the glittery upscale sandboxes of Nico, Young Marble Giants, or Saint Etienne. Wispy girl vocals, understated playing, an achingly beautiful twangy guitar. It's almost lounge, in a way, but closer to saccharine early '60s highschool pop, reminiscent of the Paris Sisters or Fleetwoods. But the note of ironic detachment is pervasive for that or lounge. Dare I say, twee? As Scots out of the '90s perhaps they come by it honestly. I don't know. Part of the appeal here is the mystery. It comes from the wonderfully titled Underachievers Please Try Harder, which is itself preoccupied in gentle ways with matters of adolescence ("Suspended From Class" is the first song). Or, well, to be more accurate, with the grappling of adolescence by fully grown adults in their 20s and 30s. "Teenager," that is, as in "you're not [one], so don't act like one." To be fair, the tone of the music and of the words are somewhat at odds with one another. I like it most precisely because it does sound so teenager and highschool. It's easy to miss the quietly stinging rebuke when surrounded by so much else so lush and simple and sweet. In many ways it is the most emblematic song on the album, perhaps of their career. Released as a single, however, it barely cracked the nether regions of the UK top 200 chart. Never caught on. Perhaps they are just too '90s and this came too late. The irony.

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