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Camel - I Can See Your House From Here CD (album) cover

I CAN SEE YOUR HOUSE FROM HERE

Camel

 

Symphonic Prog

2.82 | 476 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Rhyme Drag With Drag
3 stars Quite a shake up after 'Breathless': Pete Bardens, co-founder and wonderful key-tickler, buggers off, as does Canterbury co-conspirator Richard Sinclair, taking with him both his tight bass-work and charmingly colloquial voice. So, after the satisfyingly group-oriented 'Breathless', Andy Latimer is left with quite a task. Punk blah blah blah forced to adapt blah blah blah commercial angle blah blah blah Genesis? yeah, well you know the story.

Now, I adore 'Breathless', I think it has an unpretentious musicality and lack of pomp (not to mention great playing and cool hooks) that marks it out as something very special, so following it under such circumstances was going to be doubly difficult. We still have Latimer, supremely articulate guitarist with his camomile and a hug voice, and the possibility of him slipping out his epic flute and doing it gentle and slow? ahem. Excuse me. Anyway, as I was saying, he was a capable one-man band and very much the 'heart' of Camel. So? the results could still be pretty cool and unavoidably "Camel".

Well, he was first and foremost a guitarist, so perhaps its apt that 'Wait' is more drivingly chord-led than a lot of the group's previous material. Now, the band had previously tried to "rock out" on 'Another Night' (from Moonmadness) and, in my humble opinion, largely failed. It helps here that the song is both shorter and more melodic than that previous attempt. It's actually pretty cool in a lite-rock single kind of way: really catchy, with some super block harmonies and gutsy backing vocals that sound a bit like Supertramp. It does sound rather? skeletal without Bardens' cloud of keyboard augmentations, but there is at least a pretty energetic keyboard solo in the middle.

Now, here is the great divider, where for those not already put off by the Sinclair-era material, the band "sold their soul" or something. 'Your Love Is Stranger Than Mine' is a decent, catchy synth-led single that, while not really any more "poppy" than the 'Breathless' stuff, is certainly a bit more? well, plodding. Still, Latimer shows unusually good pop chops, and it IS a well-constructed song. I enjoy it anyway!

Then, an instrumental, and a really pretty one. 'Eye of the Storm' really grew on me from between the more blatantly infectious material and is a particularly good example of the kind of atmospheric, lullingly (?) melodic instrumental 'Camel' were great at.

Then we have 'Who We Are'. It is here that a new aesthetic, that takes up much of the album, is established- a kind of austere majesty, augmented not by keys, but by stark chamber strings. It has a large, poppy chorus (some might say "sugary"), but Latimer has the uncanny knack of making a potentially overblown "lighter-waving" moment into something that sounds more akin to a bittersweet personal epiphany ('It won't matter at all? who weee aaare': I can't help but share his enthusiasm for whatever unknown romantic path he's treading). It's a very good track, if not quite on the same level as the more energetic "biggies" from 'Breathless'. Perhaps I'm looking at it the wrong way round though ? as it could perhaps be viewed as one of the more concise, 'hooky' tunes from that album, gently spread on to a larger canvas. Well, its good anyway.

Another, very brief, instrumental is tremendously beautiful for a minute and then leaves. Hey, this is going well!

'Hymn to Her' is another rich yet characteristically subtle "epic" track that has grown on me considerably. Rather less catchy than 'Who We Are', and yet slightly more intriguing. Atmospheric, and graced with Latimer's characteristic genteel gravitas. Another good 'un!

Then everything goes weird.

'Neon Magic' is just a misfire, really. Latimer tries to do a Thin Lizzy impression for some reason. Not offensive, exactly, just pretty weak.

'Remote Romance' would be fine as a parody of the 'electro-pop' movement, if it weren't for the fact that said genre? didn't really exist yet. How unutterably bizarre. Like the "song" itself. I'd call it filler, because it is transparently pointless, if it weren't so weirdly prescient and er? yeah, weird. It is pretty crap though.

Okay, now back to the point, with 'Ice'. Twelve minutes of atmosphere, gently percussive chord-changes and Latimer illustrating his enviable taming of the guitar. To be honest, that's about it, but it is an impressive, atmospheric track nonetheless. It certainly makes the previous two duds seem very insignificant on the album as a whole. Clever sequencing there!

This album really isn't the popular concession that everyone makes it out to be ? in fact, a lot of the album seems to be a more stately, concise reaffirmation of the group's identity. There just happens to be some bizarrely throwaway moments that attract an inordinate amount of attention by being louder and less subtle than the rest of the record. Which is a shame, because nearly 2/3rds of the record is actually prime Camel. Well, if you like the band and aren't too put off by more concise songs with catchier bits in them, I'd certainly give this a try.

Rhyme Drag With Drag | 3/5 |

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