BC Camplight Provides a Melodramatic Romp Through Time

26 Mar

How to describe the band, BC Camplight? It’s like Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren and Nilsson got together and provided lessons to a particularly talented musical prodigy. That prodigy would be Brian Christinzo — the “BC” in the band’s name — a New Jersey native who’s now living in Manchester, England.

Christinzo’s band released two under-the-radar psych-pop albums in 2005 and 2007. And then, the band virtually disappeared from the radar screen as Christinzo struggled to make ends meet.

An acquaintance convinced him to make the move to England a few years ago — and that transatlantic realignment triggered a fresh round of creative songwriting that led to the release of How to Die in the North — a spare, but outstanding collection of nine new songs.

If you’re looking for BC Camplight in the rock-and-roll grocery store, head for the alternative aisle. But you might also find the band under 1970s throwbacks, theatrical, melodramatic, and even campy psych-pop — you know, like their name.

Christinzo has an affinity for Nilsson — an accomplished singer-songwriter from the late 1960s and 1970s who had a flair for the dramatic. He was also underappreciated in his time, much like Christinzo has been.

In How to Die in the North, Christinzo makes and then breaks the rules — fusing 1960s and 1970s sensibilities into catchy, piano-based melodies overlaid at times with synth-driven effects and flourishes. In addition to Nilsson, you may be reminded of everyone from Todd Rundgren (“Something/Anything”) and Queen to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. All delivered with a confident artistry that clearly shines through.

The opening track is “You Should’ve Gone to School,” a melodic throwback to surf-psych classics. The opening bass line and handclaps instantly bring back memories of the Zombies, but the falsetto vocals make you think a long-lost golden classic from the Beach Boys was just discovered.

“Love Isn’t Anybody’s Fault” is up-tempo, bright and bell-like psych-pop. Christinzo whispers the vocals, which are reminiscent of a theme song from one of those lightweight movies from the 1960s. “Just Because I Love You” is luxurious, floating, blue-eyed soul.

The fifth track, “Good Morning Headache,” is a theatrical ballad that’s somewhat Queen-like, with big piano and reverb and some spacey synth effects.

Track 7, “Atom Bomb,” is the first of two Nilsson-like compositions on How to Die in the North. It’s a slow-tempo stroll with piano and the backing of a boozy bar band.

The closing number, “Why Doesn’t Anybody Fall in Love Anymore,” is even more Nilsson-like — with delicate piano and soaring vocals on a grand scale like Nilsson’s “Without You.” Christinzo has injected just the right amount of sentimentalism and theatrics into this great ballad.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how Natalie Prass is an indie rock album that’s unlike any you probably have in your collection. How to Die in the North is another that will expand the range of your collection.

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