After listening to How to Socialise & Make Friends for the first time, one of the first words that came into my head about Camp Cope’s new album was “masterpiece.” What defines a masterpiece? By my reasoning, a masterpiece needs at least one of two aspects. The first, which comprises the spirt of the literal definition, is that the work needs to be near the pinnacle of its craft. This is a cliché example, but think the Mona Lisa here. The second aspect is that something can be a masterpiece if it makes an important and lasting statement, something that speaks to the political and cultural environment of its time. For a recent example, think Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Camp Cope accomplish both on How to Socialise & Make Friends, crafting an impeccable pop punk album that also serves as a statement in the ongoing fight to make music safer and more inclusive.
Any conversation about How to Socialise & Make Friends should begin and end with “The Face of God.” It’s only March, but there will not be a more powerful, impactful, important song in 2018. Georgia “Maq” McDonald sings of an experience that far too many women still go through in the music industry and the world in general. She starts the song with a devastating first verse, singing “I had to leave because I had to say no and stop more than once way too many times.” Indeed we know that men often take “no” as a challenge and continue to push against a woman’s clear non-consent, and to hear it so plainly laid out at the beginning of the song is striking.
From there McDonald goes through the horrific process that women face after such an incident, with abusers who turn it back around on the victims, making them doubt themselves. When she ends the song with “You couldn’t do that to someone/Not you, nah your music is too good” McDonald frankly lays out the reality of music right now, which is that many fans will brush away accusations against their favorite musicians because they like the music. “The Face of God” works so well because it’s such a frank and direct song. That extends to the music as well. McDonald’s great riffs on the guitar and Kelly-Dawn Kelso’s infectious bass line gives the track a nice density, and Sarah Thompson on the drums gives the song its foundation, the intensity of her drumming matching the intensity of the song.
Every song on How To Socialise & Make Friends carries the same musical and topical heft, and Camp Cope use it to cover a lot of ground. “The Opener” is a blunt look at the pop punk scene today, a scene full of dudes condescendingly explaining music to women, bands explaining away the success of women as “getting lucky,” and promoters who book a female opener and call it good. These are all conversations that desperately need to take place, and Camp Cope are starting them in a way that illustrates the glaring problems and sounds damn good at the same time. “The Opener” includes some of my favorite bass work of the year from Kelso, with a wonderful warmth and bounce in the bass line.
Camp Cope are equally good when it comes to the songs that are on a smaller scale than the industry spanning tracks above. “Anna” is a strong example of the catharsis that comes with songwriting, and McDonald’s belting delivery of the chorus is perfect. “UFO Lighter” is a spectacular showcase of Thompson, and full of relatable lyrics for anyone feeling like an outsider. The line “When she saw that I’d tattooed my hands/ I said ‘mum I don’t think I was ever gonna work for the bank,'” is not only brilliant and funny and insightful on its own, but an indicator of how personal and affecting McDonald’s writing is on the album.
“I’ve Got You” is another standout, a devastating recollection of McDonald’s father’s battle with cancer. It’s mournful, celebratory, intimate, illuminating, and every other emotion that happens when you’re watching a loved one slowly lose the fight. McDonald and her guitar will reach into your soul and pull out every emotion you’ve ever had in your entire life, and it’s not an exaggeration that parts of How to Socialise & Make Friends, including “I’ve Got You,” will move you to tears, either from the warm memories Camp Cope can conjure or tears of frustration and sorrow of the horrendous injustice prevalent in music.
How to Socialise & Make Friends is an incredibly honest album. From the standpoint of craft, Camp Cope is one of the most talented bands putting music out right now. Every bass line, drum beat, guitar riff, and vocal note is exactly what it needs to be. From the standpoint of a statement, the trio have created an album that is not only deeply personal to the three of them, but also speaks about the state of the world and of the music industry, a state that needs to become safer and more inclusive for everyone whose not cis, straight, white, and male. By any definition you can go by, How to Socialise & Make Friends is not only an instant masterpiece, but the best album of 2018 so far.