Camera Obscura Underachievers Please Try Harder

30th June 2023

Format Info

LP - pink vinyl
Monorai Exclusive Edition. Limited to 500.

At our heart, we’re a community record store. Our community isn’t constrained to Glasgow – if you’re reading this, you’re part of it, wherever you are. We are, though, very proud to be from Glasgow and are proud of the music heritage we’re part of.

Camera Obscura and the narratives that populate their records are woven into the city’s tapestry. They’re also our friends and customers as well as talented storytellers and musicians. The band’s earlier discography has been out of print for some time so it’s with a great deal of pride that we were able to partner with the group’s Spanish label Elefant to present these two earlier records that propelled them into the affection of people worldwide. 

Underachievers Please Try Harder and Let’s Get Out Of This Country have been repressed by Elefant and we are delighted to have both albums on Monorail Exclusive colours. Both titles are limited to 500 each.

“We should stop finding resemblances and parallel lines to those charming female vocals: No Harriets, Tracys, Nancys, Dustys or any French icon. Tracyanne sings like… Tracyanne. That’s it. She is superb singing alone or when accompanied by John: both voices are so wonderfully pasted that it‚s difficult to think of a matching duet of today. She is also the main composer, signing the songs by herself or with John and Kenny.

The rest of the line-up(GavinCareyNigel and Lee) contribute to the instrumental brilliance, though there are also some additional musicians (flute, steel, strings…) which are part of the experimentation assumed by the main members in order to add more and more arrangements to improve the compositions.

The album advance is that true gem entitled “Teenager”; I’d really want to know why the two songs in the flip, “I don´t want to see you” (sung by Tracyanne) and “Footloose and fancy free” (sung by John), two intimate moments only supported by piano and organ respectively, have not been included in the album. “Teenager” is from now on a new hit by CAMERA OBSCURA. It makes you think of a film like “The Wanderers”, with music by Dion DiMucci or some other classics with beach-surf-tinged guitars a la “Shadows”.

When the record start you may think it‚s Elvis‚ “Suspicious minds”, but no, it’s “Suspended from class”, one of the best tracks in the album, no doubt it doesn‚t open the album by chance. Main virtues: John’s second vocals, the female backing vocals -is it Tracyanne overdubbed or maybe Carey? And that full-blast ending, so typical of them. Superb production.

After another fragile, sensitive number (“Keep it clean”) we enjoy the best vocal tradition à la RIGHTHEOUS BROTHERS or EVERLY BROTHERS in “A sisters social agony”. They were all recorded at the same time.

The country touch, when John sings and he’s replied by Tracyanne, is present in “Before you cry”, another future hit we first listened in their Spanish tour. Again, the shadow of that glorious tandem formed by Nancy Sinatra-Lee Hazlewood is conjured.

At the end of A-Side (vinyl version) we find the surprise of “Your picture” proving that some members of the band (namely Kenny) is fond of songwriter Leonard Cohen. Yes, it‚s easy to think of “Suzanne”, one of the Canadian myth main hymns.

The flip opens with one of the tracks that was expecting to be delivered. It grows in crescendo till it manages to surround you (from LOVE to STEREOLAB or their contemporaries SALOON?), winning points when the guitar comes in to die in an instrumental climax. Close to “Number one son”‚s conception is “Knee deep at the national pop league”, another of the lengthiest numbers in the album.

John sends us to the dancefloor with “Let me go home”, a song written by himself, featuring refined backing vocals in the best tradition of the classic girl groups.

We also need to mention the intimacy and nakedness of another country-tinged track (featuring a delightful steel guitar) that is “Books written for girls” and the closing with “Lunar sea”, another song of the same kind, featuring alternate vocals and written by John and Kenny.

I think we are in front of one of the best albums in 2003.”

Original Promo text from the 2003 release by Julio Ruiz

Other Releases by Camera Obscura