A few words on the nature of second-album disappointment. When a band you were amazed you liked in the first place puts out a long-awaited follow-up that you can’t imagine ever wanting to listen to after you’ve finally forced yourself to review it, can that be called a disappointment? You’re just back where you started, right? Yes. And yet.
A Camp is the side project of Nina Persson from the Cardigans: Colonia is her plus sidemen plus, for Guided By Voices completists, the guy who drummed on Half Smiles Of The Decomposed. Now, State is as likely to put on a Cardigans album as to rub onions in our eyes, but A Camp’s first album had a key ingredient missing from this one: Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse, near the late- ’90s top of his game. There was something about the mix of Nina Persson’s smooth, controlled, imperturbable voice and Mark Linkous’ fucking about – his Daniel Johnston-inspired tinkering and tweaking – that really worked. Without Linkous (he’s on just one song), little is left. Just the imperturbability.
In fact, all that’s left is West Coast soft rock and power ballads. It’s all well-meaning and professional, and dull as hell. It’s not well-written, though it thinks it is; Persson loves lines that could be clever, lines that were over-worked on, but can’t bear a repeat listen, like Neil Hannon on his worst days: ‘Don’t you know love is stronger than Jesus / Don’t you know love can kill anyone / Bring it on, wars and diseases / You know that love can do you like a shotgun’ (-Stronger than Jesus’). It’s not quite -Get On Your Boots’, but Jesus, it’s not great.
There is a nadir: -Golden Teeth And Silver Medals’ is a duet with Nicolai Dunger, with wordplay and yearning that aims for Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris but hits closer to Shania Twain and the guy from Nickelback. It has some of the worst words in a song of recent memory, forcing a triple-check that Dunger was the guy we remembered from 2003’s not-bad Tranquil Isolation; even, that he was from Sweden. He sings ‘sawwnnng’ when he means ‘song’. If C+W night in the Red Cow is your thing, knock yourself out.