Camera Obscura — “Lloyd I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken”

Released: 5.15. 06

Peak: Did not chart

Great indie-rock bands grew scarcer as the decade wore on, yet great indie-rock singles grew slightly more abundant. That’s no paradox. The iPod era emphasized the importance of “tracks,” and the potential for licensing (to film, commercials, TV) ballooned as the indie kid massive came to envision itself as a marketable audience. An indie “hit” became more possible, maybe more necessary, within this new commercial climate. And Camera Obscura scored some of the best.

These bookish Glaswegians had already made the requisite connections–Belle & Sebastian’s Richard Colburn once drummed for them, and Stuart Murdoch produced their debut LP. And they crafted decent little albums in the B&S tradition: tuneful and wry and folkish and overeducated and wistful and bored, with singer Tracyanne Campbell possessing the finest of indie deadpans. They won my attention with the album title Underachievers Please Try Harder, then rewarded it with this enthusiastic answer to Lloyd Cole’s jab at collegiate asceticism “Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?”

If Cole saw heartbreak as an antidote to the cold moralizing of adolescence, for Campbell it’s the jolt needed to free her from self-obsession, as it can well be at the right time of life. “Lloyd I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken” begins hesitantly, with a deliberate, churchy organ intro, before its plucky little guitar hook plunges into a chiming Technicolor jangle of brass and strings. And in one of those nice parables of professionalism we often hear in pop, both music and lyrics parallel indie’s relationship with the wider commercial world, with the cost of escaping subcultural solipsism, as always, a willingness to endure the inevitable broken heart that is success.

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