Paul Melancon – Camera Obscura

Paul Melançon - Camera ObscuraHailing from Georgia, Paul Melancon is working on carving himself a nice little niche in indie power pop circles. And to listen to Camera Obscura is to discover why he’s earning that respect – Melancon is obviously a student of the Beatles and Brian Wilson, wistful melodies and vocal harmonies, and densely wordy songwriting. The song that drew me to this album is an unabashed valentine to Melancon’s personal pop pedigree, a song in which the singer yearns to “be just like Jeff Lynne.” That proclamation in itself would be enough to get my attention, but this song is easily the high point of the album as it effortlessly appropriates many of the ELO frontman’s trademark licks – call-and-respond backing vocals, stratospheric synth glissandos, a guitar riff that tastes just a little like “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”, and real live strings. If someone was going to pay a musical tribute to Lynne, I can’t think of a better way – and yet the song is playful too, trading on Lynne’s reputation as a studio-bound recluse and hinting that the person singing the song, by trying too hard to be like his hero, is headed for a ruined relationship.

Those aren’t the only bittersweet lyrics, and that’s far from the only good song. “Little Plum” summons up a Beach Boys vibe that begs for a singalong, “Hitchcock Blonde” tells a sordid tale of a bad girl about to get even badder (but with a surprisingly bouncy melody), and “Fine`” may well be the best song on the entire CD, with a slow, stately return to the kind of expansive soft-rock vocal harmony that used to be the mainstay of groups like America. I went through the entire CD and got stuck on this six-minute track, listening to it over and over 4 out of 4again until I started singing along with the background harmonies, having learned the lyrics just from repeat listening. It’s a beautiful thing. Not many songs get me to do that the first time around.

You can bet that, when Paul Melancon’s next album comes out, I won’t be taking my sweet time to get it. Further proof that many of the real hidden gems of rock ‘n’ roll are, without a doubt, migrating to the indie labels. Camera Obscura is just a stellar album.

Order this CD

  1. Overture (3:31)
  2. King Sham (3:21)
  3. Sherman (4:46)
  4. Now Wait For Last Year (3:34)
  5. Entr’acte (3:25)
  6. Jeff Lynne (4:25)
  7. Hey, California (4:39)
  8. Little Plum (4:04)
  9. Hitchcock Blonde (3:50)
  10. Finè (6:44)
  11. You’re So Good To Me (unlisted bonus track – 2:40)

Released by: Daemon Records
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 44:59