Babes Before Christ is the third LP from Camp David, a solo project by Winnipeg’s resident alt citizen Dave Shaw. Camp David, like Glass Random, another alias Shaw releases music under, relies on kitschy sounding synths to drive the beat. But unlike Glass Random, Camp David is Shaw’s designated outlet for love pop songs that are inspired by what is, for all intents and purposes, a very successful personal life. Last year saw the release of Avec Moi via Bandcamp, a record of French songs that was a balancing act between camp and art. On Babes Before Christ, Camp David returns to familiar stomping grounds, performing silly songs in a very serious way.
“All Night” is a prime example of this, with Shaw’s goofy baritone taking the track down wedding singer territory, and the simplistic synths providing a jubilant backbone to the song. “Theme from Camp David” and “Sick Kissing” are cheesy stuff, whether they provoke this reaction through demo production quality or content matter about loving someone with a runny nose. “Theme” is reminiscent of the faux lounge-porn sounds Camp David mimicked on Avec Moi; it’s interesting how non-sexual the sexual comes off to the listener. Although, with lyrics like “My mind is telling me no, but my body is telling me yes,” it’s not hard to see why, when the sexual is celebrated through a corny lens.
That corny line also sums up the record in general, because BBC is enjoyable in a way that defies logic. On one level, it’s pleasant and undemanding pop music, but on another level, it’s stylized schtick. To anyone who is familiar with Shaw’s internet writings, such as his fruit poems, Camp David can be seen as a continuation of an internet brand identity that’s based on nervous detachment and amateurish personas, where irony and artificiality play vital roles. It’s like if Hipster Runoff made music instead of snarky comments about musicians.
If parody is all there is to Camp David, there would not be more to say, but the most exciting moments on BBC are when the songs push past a performance of knowing nods and take on a life of their own. “Merlin in Jeans” is a fine piece of bedroom pop, similar to the sparkling dance numbers one finds on early Work Drugs. “Over and Over” is an unabashed love ode, a coherent, realized song that rings a similar bell to Miniature Tigers, while the instrumental “All – Horse Olympics 2044” is a reminder that chillwave is forever.
Fun and internet-friendly, Babes Before Christ is out January 4 via Bandcamp.