It was inevitable that Summer Camp and celluloid would eventually collide. The British husband and wife team of Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey already imagined a mythical US town on their debut album, Welcome to Condale, while the band’s live shows regularly feature film clips and archive footage. Beyond Clueless, therefore, is a natural outcome of the duo’s penchant for teen movies and pop culture. Written and directed by Charlie Lyne, the film itself is a roller coaster exploration of teenage life seen through over 200 coming-of-age movies. Its soundtrack is a collaborative effort with the director feeding the footage, allowing Summer Camp to evoke the moods suggested by the images with the final frames cut to the band’s finished score.
With any soundtrack, the acid test is how it works alongside the visuals and in isolation. Does it capture the mood, enhance dramatic points, and play with your emotions? How does it sound in audio terms alone? Summer Camp mostly tick both boxes. The compelling title track, which opens the album, would easily fit the duo’s earlier recordings, with Elizabeth Sankey’s downbeat musings on teen stereotypes delivered in an urbane rap, lifted by her customary gilded flourishes. Any suspicions that we are simply in for a Condale II, though, are quickly removed by the ensuing, mostly instrumental tracks.
The strongest of these demonstrate how Summer Camp breaks new ground here, showing some real finesse. Softly pulsing keyboards and diffident beats mirror the onscreen seduction rituals of “Swimming Pool”, while guitar adds suitably steamy crescendos. “Meet the Cliques” builds Mike Oldfield-like, as new instruments weave their way in like musical echoes of the titular stock teen characters. Each of the 12 pieces on the record has a life of its own, a purpose and presence, while knitting together sweetly to make a stimulating standalone listen.
In the film, Lyne applies a broad brush in defining the teen movie. He mixes so many clips that it’s hardly surprising that fans of the genre might take issue with some of his inclusions. Yet, essentially, it’s a British take on American youth culture, a celluloid coming-of-age as seen from across the pond. The soundtrack, meanwhile, neatly sidesteps pure nostalgia and instead implants a more contemporary spin on a quasi-mythical past. It has depth and, not least, dark moments that hint at a less-than-perfect world.
Essential Tracks: “Beyond Clueless”, “Meet the Cliques”, and “Swimming Pool”