Camera Obscura | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Camera Obscura 

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Leonard Cohen must be huge in Scotland. Scottish indie-pop bands like Belle & Sebastian, Ballboy, and Arab Strap all nick something from Cohen's brooding melancholy and chamber-pop arrangements. But "Your Picture," the fourth track on Camera Obscura's sophomore effort, Underachievers Please Try Harder (Merge), sounds so much like the early, acoustic Cohen that the old poet might well be tempted to suspend his Buddhist devotions long enough to sue. Aside from that track and the similarly mournful "Books Written for Girls," Underachievers is actually fairly upbeat for its genre: on the countryish "Before You Cry" singer Tracyanne Campbell plays the voice of reason, countering fellow vocalist John Henderson's depressive ruminations with "I love you, baby / Oh, please don't hate me / You're feeling a little sad tonight / But you'll be all right." Any resemblance to Belle & Sebastian is noncoincidental: B & S drummer Richard Colburn used to play with the group, and B & S front man Stuart Murdoch produced their early single "Eighties Fan." It's all as twee as can be, but Campbell's girl-group-ish "Number One Son" and Henderson's elegant Motown pastiche, "Let Me Go Home," are utterly charming. Scotland Yard Gospel Choir and Walker Kong open. $12. Wednesday, July 21, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499.

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