Similar to our Great British summer, Campfire Social have arrived with an alt-pop offering that can turn dramatically from blue skies, to storm-on-the-horizon at a moments notice.
On Wellbeing we hear the North Walian five-piece trade in their former folk-leaning tendencies for a more assured, sunkissed indie sound. Think Belle & Sebastian and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart out daytripping in matching stripped swimming cozzies. A record really abounding with charm and heavy on hooks. Except with say, a little more indie-punk attitude, a la Los Campesinos. Plus a touch of Conor Oberst’s impassioned outbursts; the A-side lending itself to ballsy Desaparecidos rough-cuts and the B-side sounding closer to Oberst’s Bright Eyes balladry.
‘Ishq’ opens in joyous three-part harmony and changes course like an overexcited youngster in midstream, floats into daydream and jolts back to life to finish. Between ‘Ishq & I’ve Got Two (You Can Have One Of Mine)’ we’re swayed by the ring of keys, xylophone, driving guitar, what sounds like a Wurlitzer and most notably, the heart-warming harmonies and lead melodies. Thomas Hyndman’s conversational vocals relax further back in the mix and truly shine when joined by his bandmates. All joining to sing, “I’ll be your friend and thank you for being mine too” you can’t help but feel moved, it’s an audible hand on the shoulder pulling you in for the bear hug. There’s not an ounce of conceit, just compassion and that’s important. It would seem that’s what Wellbeing hangs on.
Following in that vein ‘Playwright & Wendy’ allow for some needed breathing room. Although all the songs are reflective in their nature, they are a less bracing, tender respite from the more climactic force of ‘Ishq’, ‘I’ve Got Two… & Nothing’, ‘Nowhere, Never, Now’. Existing out there in the void, lead single ‘Nothing, Nowhere…’ see’s Thom at his most probing. It may all strike one as sweet-sounding on the surface but just as Stuart Murdoch (of Belle & Sebastian) and Brian Wilson (Beach Boys’ mastermind) go to prove, the finest celebratory chamber-pop is quite often driven by an undercurrent of fear and heartache.
There’s an insistence and impatience at work here, each couplet is open to scrutiny and can hold its own. What’s clear from the humanity and humility of the lyrical through-line is the strength of the songwriting at play. In classic Elliott Smith fashion, those feelings of alienation are dragged out kicking and screaming into the light and we’re all forced to face to them. Together. Whether we like it or not.
Perhaps Wellbeing holds most in common with Win Butler’s noughties output for Arcade Fire. You’ve got the jubilant handclaps, hollering and impulsive deviations in structure in there, but most tellingly Campfire seem to share their famed ‘us kids know’ sense of nostalgia, world-weariness and struggle against the status quo.
For me Wellbeing replays like a grainy home-movie. There you go in all your childlike glory, bar haircut, racing round the garden full of youthful abandon. Fleeting moments that can’t be relived but can be lived by. Throughout Hyndman & co. will us to “make it up as we go along” and “chase life like a child outside”. Just like their live shows; it’s meaningful and embracing. Well thank you guys, with your help we’ll do our best.