The second album from the Australian trio hums with rage and retribution, executed with biting specificity and vast emotional range by singer Georgia Maq.
The Melbourne punk trio Camp Cope are not impressed with the so-called Indie Rock Asshole. Sure, he’s outwardly progressive and affable, his music is usually quite good, and it can be easy to mistake his condescension for genuine concern. They're not buying it. Camp Cope might have titled their sophomore album How to Socialise & Make Friends, but they refuse to mince words on “The Opener,” which, yes, opens the album but is more accurately about an opening band, the supporting act—a metaphor for what is often deemed a woman’s station in life. Singer and guitarist Georgia Maq offers a relentless, chorus-less takedown of this subset of wanker while Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich plucks a bassline that’s the aural equivalent of an eye roll, and drummer Sarah Thompson props it all up with steady, stoic drumming.
Maq doesn’t let up in the title track that immediately follows, ably folding the personal and political into an intricate origami crane of misogyny until finally coming to the realization that this shit is paper and can be crumpled up and thrown into the fire. It is here where we learn that the origin (and sarcasm) of the title is some guy’s self-help book collection. As Maq zigzags between empathy and anger, we also get a sense of the album’s overall sentiment: Camp Cope will not make themselves small to help others in their hometown’s tight-knit punk community like self-help dude (or dudes in general, really) feel more comfortable. The opening trilogy of songs ends with “The Face of God,” which details a sexual assault by a fellow musician and the subsequent doubt, both self-inflicted and external, since the abuser didn’t seem like “that kind of guy.”
Camp Cope wrote How to Socialise before the #MeToo movement really took off. But reckonings don’t just fall out of the sky, and not since the alt-rock boom of the ’90s has music felt more ripe for a revolution. Camp Cope’s windswept punk feels both retro and right now, like Courtney Barnett covering Tigers Jaw covering Ani DiFranco. Their sound is jangly but unpolished, folky but not crunchy. Maq’s voice, decorated with Australian diphthongs, ably meanders from shouty to soft, conjuring an inexplicable mashup of Joe Strummer and Joni Mitchell. It’s an instrument she’s been honing since her similarly prescient, self-titled, Australian Music Prize-shortlisted 2016 debut.
How to Socialise’s center drags just a little with generalities like, “I really hope you’re happy where you are now” in the album’s six minute centerpiece, “Anna,” which segues into a similarly slightly vague “Sagan-Indiana.” A near-constant state of catharsis in “Animal & Real” has a numbing effect, like outrage fatigue for the ears. Of course, these are minor missteps among lyrics that are otherwise brilliantly concrete, and songs whose emotional range is vast.
Such is how you could describe the closer, “I’ve Got You,” a poignant song recounting the death of Maq’s father. With just her powerful voice and an acoustic guitar, she narrates a slideshow of disparate memories—a childhood injury involving broken glass, news of police violence, and small indignities like being asked to pay extra for a hospital room with a view. It’s the literal death of the patriarchy. But it’s also a sage acknowledgment that people are complicated—full of broken parts and beautiful parts—even Indie Rock Assholes.