Instant Camera
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Instant Camera

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The best kept secret in music


"Instant Camera - Alive on Departure"

Upon first listen I was struck by how tight the playing is and how strong the songwriting is. The first few songs create a more moody atmosphere with haunting keys while vocalist Neil Dez sounds positively sinister. Then next few songs are more rocking, in the Damned vein (especially on the excellent “Style over Substance Abuse.”). The re! st of the record opts for a more moody sound but again, the songwriting is still strong. In fact, I can’t believe I haven’t heard more about this band in other zines. Hopefully, by this time next year, someone will have had the smarts to sign them.

- Dagger Zine

"Instant Camera: Alive on Departure (Wall to Wall Records)"

“Unpredictable” would be an understatement when describing the sound of Louisville’s Instant Camera. One look at their CD cover and band photo and you may think you know what their debut album, Alive on Departure, will sound like. Don’t give yourself that much credit; looks can be deceiving.

Instant Camera’s five members look like everyday Joes. No heavy makeup or wild hair, just jeans and T-shirts. And that’s where they trick you, because Instant Camera doesn’t sound like your everyday band. It sounds punk and indie and pop and ’80s new wave and a hundred other genres. Categorizing Instant Camera as post-post-punk fits best, because it’s a new genre without precedents. Until now.

Instant Camera really likes the keyboard, and the use of this instrument separates the band from its peers. Without Simon P. Ryan’s unique electronic stylings, Instant Camera might just be another Franz Ferdinand. “Beyond Infinity” opens the album with a heavy keyboard line that made me miss my old Casio. “Shadowman” softens the keyboard sound creating a mature electric piano melody.

“Dr Glass” is a comic book–style theme song for its title character. Lead singer Neil Dez wails the word “glass” over sharp drumbeats and a piercing organ note. “Style Over Substance Abuse” is a fashionable tune reminiscent of the Dead Kennedys. This song brings to mind images of supermodels and celebrities partying under strobe lights with maybe the tiniest splash of neon green and yellow popping up each time the one-word refrain is sung. (What is that word, by the way? “Ignorants?” “Ignorize?” “Endorise?” Whatever. It sounds cool.) “Working Class Zero” has a soothing quality, but just as the guitars and rushing ocean wave noises calm you down, they abruptly end, making way for a short, but sinister guitar chord finale.

Beneath the new-age keyboard and guitar hooks lie lyrics with an agenda all their own. In “Beyond Infinity,” Dez sings, “Just a victim of the human race.” “Social Anxiety” asks the question, “Who decides what you really know?” As the band explores “American life,” the songs tackle isolation, paranoia, and the downfall of society in just under 30 minutes.

After listening to this album, I felt like I had been the one partying under strobe lights—you know, that feeling where everything still seems really disjointed and choppy, but so much fun. If this is the future of music, count me in.

-Laurie Hahn

- PlaybackSTL

"Instant Camera - Alive on Departure"

Ahh, the humble test card. Iconic image of an age when the British Broadcasting Corporation ruled the waves, and the concept of BBC News 24 was even more laughable than it is now (breezy conditions in Sussex? damnit, we’ll stay with this story ALL NIGHT if we have to!) A gentle lift of one or both of your eyes toward the top right corner of this very page will reveal that Instant Camera have recognised the beauty of the test card and adopted the distinctive colour-spectrum as their album cover. This same album features a track entitled “Terrorvision.” Could this be a clandestine reference to the ill-advised days of using a creepy child and her demonic clown companion on the test card? For now, let’s keep pretending that’s even remotely likely.

Unlike the BBC test card—which could happily drone on indefinitely until blood started spurting from your ears, or, worse still, until Kissyfur came on—Alive On Departure displays a healthy sense of urgency throughout. Nipping through the whole repertoire in just over half an hour certainly doesn’t do anything to dispel this sense of nervous haste, leaving the aforementioned “Terrorvision” sounding like a veritable epic when it nudges over four minutes. All of which is tremendously beneficial to the implied thematic aesthetics of anxiety, misdirection and paranoia—delivered in short, sharp, individual blasts. You can forget about being given any breathing space between tracks.

Raggedy-jaggedy guitars abound, refusing to settle on any particular chord or note for any length of time before flitting off to the next like twitchy butterflies. Manic keyboard lines strive for the same kind of intensity that propelled much of Magazine’s Real Life to stratospheres of greatness, hitting more often than they miss. And sing-out-loud moments appear with pleasing regularity, ranging from the exciting Supervillain potential of “Dr Glass” (‘Theeeey caaaall hiiim glaaaasss’) to the slightly perplexing refrain embedded in “Style Over Substance Abuse,” which sounds entirely too much like ‘haemorrhoids’ to me. Or ‘henna eyes.’ Um .. because that would make more sense, somehow.

“Working Class Zero” rightly eschews percussion as the tool of bourgeois oppressors, choosing instead to march on the Winter Palace and declare that the means of producing fuzzed-out feedback are now in safe hands. The furthest departure, however, is saved for a surprise twist ending. “Hearing is Disbelieving” rigorously examines the universal rule of accordions, confirming that, yes, using one will inevitably make your tune sound like a drunken pirate swagger. No bad thing in my book—just take any number of jaunty zombie ruffians from Monkey Island II as your reference point. Sailors of the damned, rejoice!

Rejoice indeed. It’s nervy, it’s speedy. It’s a swift slap to the chops combined with the underlying fear that your attacker has a deadly skin-transferred virus. It’s not just alive on departure, it’s positively kicking.

Reviewed by: Peter Parrish

- Stylus Magazine

"Instant Camera - Alive on Departure"

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Louisville, KY rockers Instant Camera and their momentous debut, Alive on Departure. They have made a new wave album that isn't a new wave album, and the launching pad for a post-post-punk revolution. Trust me, once you hear this you will know what I'm saying. Instant Camera has come along to show where the real skills lie in this field. Aside from My Morning Jacket, Slint, and baseball bats, nothing else really comes off the top of my head when I think of Louisville. Now I feel that as all cars enter the city limits, they should be greeted with a huge billboard emblazoned with the words. "Welcome to Louisville, Home of Instant Camera".

If you were glued to MTV during its inception then you will become elated as Alive on Departure departs with the synth-lines correlative to New Order's Power, Corruption & Lies with "Beyond Insanity" as it is plumed with breezy harmonies and a cocktail of singing and beats that would be perfect for doing the robot. It's rather enlivening to see the bailiwick from the glory days of Duran Duran shine on with "Existing to Cease" and on "Another Suggestion (For White Noise)" where singer Neil Dez lets us all know what Joy Division's Ian Curtis would have sounded like minus the gloomy-Gus undercurrent. As long as were on the subject of Ian Cutis, have you ever wondered what the bastard child of Joy Division of Oingo Biongo would sound like? It would be similar to "Style Over Substance Abuse" with its speedy punk funk and lots of stamina when it comes to staying brash and fresh as it clocks in at less than two minutes.

Patrons of the great early American days of indie-punk labels such as SST and Dischord will take nicely to "Dr. Glass," as it blends Simon Ryans' organ riffs and Mark Campbell's feverish beats. Sit back and listen as solid angst is paired alongside the bouncy pop ruckus of the Futureheads on "Social Anxiety" and if you fancy some retro sci-fi pop, then you won't want to skip past "Terrorvison."

Instant Camera shakes out their arty jitters on songs such as "Shadowman," augmented with some baroque piano and lots of fuzz and "Working Class Zero's" wintry yet enkindling Kraut-rock pulse. Ryans moonlights his accordion skills on "Hearing is Disbelieving" as he conducts some tripped out gypsy-ska madness as Neil Dez croons on par with the psychedelic mannerisms of Jim Morrison served with a generous helping of the mouth harp.

After listening to Alive on Departure, I have come to the conclusion that it is a unique find that should not be overlooked in 2005 and it just may be the greatest album that the '80s never saw.

Chris Pacifico

- TrebleZine

"Instant Camera"

This band recently came trotting out of Louisville, Kentucky sounding like some backwater combination of post-punk, neo-new wave and Tom Waits-ian drones and groans.

On their most recent effort, "Alive at Departure", the group echoes recent fashionable throwback trends but manages to inject them with a very zany, almost psychotic attitude. The larynx of lead singer Neil Dez alternates between a writhing warble and a laid back Michael Stipe-like stutter. The band accompanies him with a hodgepodge of progressive 80's keyboard licks, thumping bass-lines and flashes of delayed guitar strums.

The Instant Camera's bizarre attempts to cross-pollinate various strains of rock, everything from Gang of Four inspired disco to prog-influenced Police sounds, often results in an entertaining, if not consistent recordings.

For example, the second track on the album, "Another Suggestion", is the group's fantastic attempt to interbreed a wildly pumping bass-line with flailing rock guitar riffs and Nintendo inspired keyboards. In this case, the result is a surprisingly smooth concoction.

The highlight of the album is the short lived track "Style Over Substance Abuse" which is chock full of shimmering surf guitar sounds and a delightfully bombastic Fred Schneider style back-up vocal. Brief, clever and energetic, the song is a sweet and satisfying reminder of 80's excess.

"Terrorvision", placed near the end of the album, sounds like what the band Grandaddy would sound like if they went totally evil. The tone is spaced-out like some lost Modesto band, but it is full of angular and dangerous sounding minor, descending spirals . This song also features some of the only decipherable lyrics on the album. Dez shouts the word terrorvision during the beginning of the song and then starts talking about democracy later on. The rest of the lyrics were too buried in the mix to accurately make out. No lyrics sheet was included with the album.

The group displays a flair for composition and a high level of musicianship if not studiomanship. Their sound, which is raw and unpolished, could use some honing, but the initial result is extremely listen-worthy. And if you sit back and try to guess what this group will sound like in the future - well, that's real fun.

-Malcolm Sosa

- Fresno Famous

"Instant Camera - Alive on Departure"

If the Louisville, KY five-piece Instant Camera are able to hang together for another couple of years and sharpen their talents, then they will be akin to an electro-indie wrecking ball. As of this moment, Instant Camera are teetering on the edge of greatness and they just need to work a little harder and smarter on songwriting to pull off a coup. Featuring constantly in the fore-front keyboards (and at times accordion), Instant Camera travel along rebirth new wave edge drawing images of an electronic Joy Division and the like. Part of the record’s mid-fi sound may be trying to trip off that sound. They also add haunting early punk moments like the freaky “Style Over Substance Abuse” that has some surf guitar and is memorable for a weird voiced chorus. When Instant Camera goes after a more rock approach, such as on “Shadowman” and “Working Class Zero,” their allure drops immediately. However, look for numbers like “Beyond Infinity” and “DR Glass” making its way across college radio in the near future.
- Exoduster

"Instant Camera - Alive on Departure"

Fit with 1980s inspired synthesisers, punk notability and a kooky eccentricity, Louisville group Instant Camera blast through thirty minutes of short, sharp noise on Alive On Departure. With an amalgamation of bands such as The Cure, Talking Heads, The Clash, Franz Ferdinand and Interpol, Instant Camera conglomerate a plethora of styles, yet the album still remains uniquely neoteric.

The album commences with Beyond Infinity, exemplifying the band's anomalous brand of synthesized rock. A sharp, incessant drum beat opens the track, indented by an undulating synthesized melody and rhythmic guitar. The vocals of Neil Dez drawl behind the wall of guitar noise and offer the remaining construction of the song. A trenchant and propitious occasion on the album. A certain highlight.

Style Over Substance Abuse is another compelling track, beaming with surf-pop sensibility. An Arabian-esque (that's right, Arabian-esque surf-pop) keyboard and guitar melody persists throughout, furthering the already evident zany influences. Possessed backup vocals feature in the song, recollecting SOAD style force in some part, while lead vocals are reminiscent of early punk snarl.

The Shadowman riff seems all too familiar with The Dandy Warhols Bohemian Like You, but then marries with sludgy grunge further in, the same style magnified on many tracks.

Fractured accordian circus anthem Hearing Is Disbelieving reeks of uninterested eccentricity. The vocals drone throughout before tambourine pop instills upon the track yet another eclectic theme. Featuring any obscure percussion you could name, this track intrigues and delights.

Epic track Terrorvision (epic for it's length of four minutes and 17 seconds, as opposed to the rest of the album tracks which barely surpass the three minute mark) is dark and brooding, conjuring the spirits of eerie rock. This track also features some of the only discernable lyrics on the album, most song lyrics purely merging to form a continuous stream of conciousness.

Throw them some neon spandex bike shorts, converse high-tops and a "Relax" sweatshirt, and they would fit perfectly into the keyboard-centric eighties. With the style and swagger of punk and their deeply rooted investment in eerie electronic sounds, Instant Camera fulfill their eighties hybrid "legwarmers" remarkably well. However, before you begin to think this description is in some way defaming the band, think again. Their sound is masterful, and even if you aren't riding the recent wave of eighties inspired rock (a la The Killers, The Bravery etc.) you will be sure to find something to admire on this album. Whether it be their eccentric zombie-like kook or skill for writing panged tracks, there is no doubt Instant Camera have brought some largely generic yet stunningly sui generis works (though that may seem largely contradictory) to the industry table.

-The World Is Round (Column)

- FasterLouder (Australia)


Alive on Departure
Released April 2005

Wall to Wall Records


Feeling a bit camera shy


Instant Camera brings in pop songwriting with an almost psychotic edge. With a number of aggressive punk moments, the music is also amplified with an atmospheric pitch. Taking equal cues from Eno as well as American underground music, Instant Camera creates a punk album in concept, but with a cinematic feel.

The band recorded the debut last summer at Jason Hayden's basement studio, the Playground, sometimes using as many as 30 tracks to lay down one song.

The band had the disc mastered at the Walkmen's Marcata Studios in New York.

Lyrically, the album explores the tension and fear that complicates daily American life. Subjects such as paranoia, isolation, and an overall awareness of society destroying itself are clearly present within the three minute blasts that populate the album.

With "Alive on Departure" still warm on the shelves, the record has been in rotation on several college and specialty radio stations. Instant Camera already has fanciful visions of leaving Louisville to record an EP later this year and possibly wandering up north for a tour.

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