Chicago’s own, Camera, has been playing music together for over 10 years. The band is comprised of Justin C. Scro on guitar and vocals, Ryan Aylward on bass and synth, and Joseph Scro on drums. Its first album, Fire and Science, was released in 2008 and was coined “Pop-Noir” by the Chicago Reader. Their long awaited second album, The Panic and the Permanence, was released earlier this month. The album has a polished and mature sound, reflecting a band looking to make a statement, but what that statement is exactly still remains unclear.
Track one, “Grazed By Bullets,” has a samba groove heard in the bass and hand drums. A quiet guitar melody haunts the upper registers and is lost in a wail of police sirens. The vocals are strained and urgent, turned high in the mix. The overall sound is reminiscent of The Police, poppy and danceable while concealing attention paid toward technical musicianship.
“Pop Radio 101” is more heavily focused on vocals. The track revolves around a monologue in which Scro states, “We are here to address matters that certainly need addressing,” and, “It smells like something that certainly isn’t spirit.” The music is bass heavy with druggy guitars floating between headphones. The effect is hazy and disorienting, while remaining catchy and accessible.
Track four, “Nuclear,” opens with an ambient synth soundscape that collides with a choppy guitar line. The drums kick in with a subdued dance beat as synthesizers color the background. The vocals are very present with reverb buzzing around their edges. This track draws quite heavily from ’80s New Wave, but rarely diverts from its poppy structures or glossy sounds.
This is something of a statement on the band. Camera likes to reference other genres of music and incorporate it into its own. However, the band has yet to demonstrate a unique voice that not only draws from a plethora of genres, but also manipulates them to create a new sound. This isn’t to say the music isn’t enjoyable, as it’s often catchy by design.
“Buried Alive” is a lonely track headed by shimmering guitars and tom-heavy drumming. The vocals are layered and harmonized, singing in a sad, yet triumphant tone. The chorus sings, “When you make big plans with me/when you make big plans you’ll see.” The song drowns in ambiance and fades away. It is a catchy tune and has a pop punk edge to it, but is strangely empty of its own character, a theme found throughout the album.
The closer, “The Gathering Storm,” fades in from an airy, wind-like ambiance. The guitar lines are dreamy and pleasant, while the bass is pulsing and hypnotic. At the bridge, a light piano line paints the atmosphere, while a soft vocal line grooves contentedly through the music. The track gathers energy and peaks with the vocals screaming, “Can you feel it now?” then disassembles into the ethereal ambiance from which it came.
The Panic and the Permanence is an album with many great ideas, but few of them are original. The band certainly draws from a colorful musical background, including everything from ’80s New Wave to Latin pop, but the overall effect has a way to go. On the whole, Camera is trying too hard to be a band that appeals to a wide audience, and while the music is catchy, danceable and worth the listen, it isn’t memorable yet.
Camera – The Panic and the Permanence tracklist:
- “Grazed by Bullets”
- “Pop Radio 101”
- “A Place I Know”
- “The Negotiator”
- “Buried Alive”
- “On a Night Like This”
- “Heir Apparent”
- “The Gathering Storm”