Label: Swordfish Records Release date: Out Now Website: http://www.myspace.com/campoutmusic Before I begin, I think I ought to declare an interest: following a chance encounter with San Francisco synth-punk outfit The Units earlier this year, I've become a little bit biased towards any band within spitting distance of the Golden Gate Bridge. So when I saw the summary of “San Francisco; punk” on the promo sheet next to Camp Out and their debut album Closer, I snapped it up pretty quickly. Nevertheless, I suspected from the first track that this was not going to be the band to push me over into full blown Californication, a suspicion which was confirmed when the subsequent eleven offered very little in the way of variation. Closer's overall impression is that of a small album, the sort that you buy at the end of the gig from the back of the guitarist's station wagon – and had that been the case I'd probably have been pretty impressed at a young band still finding their feet. For an international release however, I can't help but feel it's a little stylistically lazy. Probably the most important factor in whether you're going to enjoy this band is how you feel about Maddy Hanks, whose grrl rock inspired vocal twang is likely to grate on more than a few listeners. And if, conversely, you fall into the camp that decides to find it charming, you'll still have to contend with lyrics so awkwardly teenaged that they'll feel out of place if you don't happen to be staring intently at the myspace logo at the time. Of course, if you're the sort of person who finds bands such as Radiohead (or, for that matter, Bob The Builder) to be needlessly oblique in their lyricism, you owe it to yourself to pick up an album that is comprised almost entirely of lines like “these lies are choking me, why can't you just see, it, and let me be free” ('Flying Back') and “now I'm starting to forget my study plans, as you move closer and closer towards my hands” ('Closer'). And maybe that's why listening to Camp Out is such a refreshing experience. In an age where every other band is scrabbling after the new sound, I'm immensely relieved that Camp Out have resisted the urge to put a donk on it, and stuck to what they know. That what they know is a fairly unchallenging offshoot of 90s grrl rock is no real fault, and the scuzzy guitars and simple melodies more often than not play in their favour. In the end, I did enjoy Closer; it's a perfectly pleasant collection of coffee shop friendly pop-punk that makes me feel oddly nostalgic for the end credits of some god awful teen movie. It's Teagan & Sara with the distortion turned up. And I'm completely confident that for at least one 14 year old girl living in the Bay Area, this is going to be the album that defines their entire adolescence; the one that “really gets” them. But the rest of us would probably do better to pick up an Elastica compilation. Rating: 6/10