CD Review of Colonia by A Camp
A Camp: Colonia
Recommended if you like
Aimee Mann, the Cardigans,
Joan as Police Woman
Label
Wigpowder/Nettwerk
A Camp: Colonia

Reviewed by Michael Fortes

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N
ina Persson had long since slipped into cult status by the time her first album with her Cardigans side project, A Camp, was released eight years ago. The Cardigans created a late ‘90s touchstone with the retro new wave disco of "Lovefool," and yet by 2001, Persson couldn’t even get A Camp distributed in the U.S. Meanwhile, in her native Sweden, A Camp’s self-titled first album was showered with awards equivalent to Grammys here in America.

Eight years later, Persson has revived A Camp with guitarist Niclas Frisk and her husband, film composer and Shudder to Think guitarist Nathan Larson, and this time America is able to hear what the erstwhile Cardigans chick is up to.

For one, she has an impressive musical army behind her this time around. In addition to Larson and Frisk, Shudder to Think drummer Kevin March handles drums for most of the album, while Joan Wasser (a/k/a Joan as Police Woman, and March’s former bandmate in the Dambuilders) contributes violin and viola. Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous is back, though rather than producing (as he did on the first album), he simply adds some slide guitar to "The Weed Had Got There First." And while former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha is receiving greater attention for his role in Tinted Windows these days, he can proudly list Colonia as one of his more artistically satisfying projects.

A Camp

Happily, Persson still has a knack for combining cutesiness with sarcasm and irony. There’s plenty of that to go around on Colonia, as she channels Aimee Mann on the biting opening cuts "The Crowning" and "Stronger than Jesus." On the former, she sings the descriptions of excessive attention on a figurehead leader with a poker face, slipping in the ironic pronouncement "We’re gonna party like it’s 1699," but leaving no doubt as to her intent in the chorus: "We’re all witnessing the crowning / Of your useless, ruthless head." The Marie Antoinette/George W. Bush connection is inescapable, and appropriately out of time given the song’s imagery.

As for "Stronger than Jesus," her intent is less clear, though it’s fairly easy to come to the conclusion that Persson and company are drawing a distinction between blind devotion to a "higher power" and the very real power that love can wield, leading to the spread of wars and diseases, not to mention crimes of passion.

A Camp works hard to avoid cliché and eliminate vapidity from the pop form, which gives the songs a replay factor that is less for pleasure seeking and more for reexamination – what contract does she really mean to invoke when she sings "I signed the line that was dotted" in "I Signed the Line"? Who or what is "the weed" in "The Weed Had Got There First"? And yet, these songs are all pleasurable regardless. Persson’s voice is as gorgeous as ever, and the album’s meticulously constructed pop songs are immaculately produced, with horns, woodwinds and strings for understated sweetening, making Colonia prime listening for lovers of pop music.

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