However I think Camera Camera is a must listen album in their collection.
This isn’t because the song are particularly good. In fact I think from a songwriting point of view this album is quite mediocre. It’s trying to integrate jerky new-wave pop music, synth pop with art-pop multipart song structure a-la 10cc. The execution shows that this isn’t part of the band strength as the songs seems to lack coherence and sounds clumsily like mashing together unrelated songs or melodies together. The vocal melodies lack the immediate memorability that good pop music requires.
However, this is compensated by one of the all time great vocal performance that completely transform my perspective of Annie Haslam as a vocalist. My opinion of her as a singer has essentially doubled and previously I just thought of her as one of many great vocalist out there but now she is certainly a contender to top 5 vocalist of all time.
This album shows off her versatility as a vocalist. Previously she is the folkish-prog goddess with a voice of an angel that gives the song a sense of transcendental beauty. However there are many singers out there with a beautiful voice out there and having a pretty voice isn’t that unique. This album she switches roles and becomes a quirky eccentric vocals with significant personality. It’s almost a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” archetype that almost seems quite different to her earlier albums. There are elements of Kate Bush and Bjork in her voice and she does it so well. I could easily see her being a lead singer of The Sugarcubes or B-52. Someone who could simultaneously be a great prog vocalist and a great quirky new wave vocalist is absolutely unique.
There are a lot of quirky vocal styling, belting, even some angry aggressive powerful singing while mixing it with her gentle folksy singing that we are familiar with her prog work.
The highlight is “Jigsaw” and hearing her squeal at the end of the chorus is mind blowing awesome. This foreshadows Bjork similar squealing in “it’s all so quiet” by a decade. The title track “Camera Camera” is also another highlight with her vocal leap with unusual vocalisation (the “I’m” in “I’m sure that you will find me” section) and the sustained note at the end of the song. Her vocals cover a far more variety emotional range in this album then the prog years and surprisingly it completely works.
This album is one of the biggest discrepancy between how I rate the vocal performance and the songs itself. I guess the fact that I don’t even really like majority of the songs and yet be blown away by the singing is a testament of her strength as a vocalist that she can elevate mediocre material solely by her strength as a performer.
I’ll give it a Hex 8 or 10/15. however it’s a very unique 10/15 album as there is transcendental, mindblowing, creating a religious epiphany emotional reaction, career redefining 15/15 vocal performance. It’s a 10/15 album but I due to her performance I consider it an essential must listen album
I would love to hear her sing an album with similar style but better songwriting.
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