“When the mind is over that way, my soul is over there somewhere and I’m just in-between saying what do you want from me.” Mental Health can be conceptualized on an album in a number of ways; sometimes it’s expressed in an incredibly depressing manner, sometimes the songwriter aims to give advice and encourage hope. However, Brian Christinzio a.k.a BC Camplight approaches the subject of mental illness in the best way on his new LP Shortly After Take Off . He humourously documents his first-hand experience of the condition by uniquely displaying all the different kinds of moments that a mentally handicapped person goes through – all the way from distorted illusions to the most mundane moments of laziness that songwriters perhaps avoid out of lack of glamour. This is a songwriter that always refused to play by the popularity rulebook.
BC Camplight’s humorous style of songwriting is like a less vulgar John Grant but with the same amount of culture references (transatlantic name drops from Ray Liotta to Rachel Riley), a less sinister Daniel Knox and a less lyrically-confusing Sparks. Christinzio performs the songs in a deadpan manner (he is said to be inspired by the performances in The Naked Gun franchise) and intertwines the comedic elements with sad true confessions that make it incomparable with Flight of The Conchords, even during the funniest moments. Even on the first listen, BC Camplight’s songs will tickle both your funny and sympathetic bone.
Christinzio has a great perspective on mental health, as he himself has gone through challenging times of late, including his father’s death, a leg injury and an identity crisis. He’s a New Jersey native that moved to Philadelphia, became homeless and now currently resides in Manchester where he’s having VISA problems that could cause him to move again. No wonder he feels lost.
“I can’t be bothered running after rabbits or Mancunians,” Christinzio references his new home city on the opening Mini-Mansions-reminiscent ‘I Only Drink When I’m Drunk’. Although the title – like the majority of the tracks on Shortly After Take Off – have a touch of ludicrousness, this is a song that addresses the American’s alcoholic problems. He touches upon two realistic and undignified sides of alcoholism. The random acts of wildness: “danced around my kitchen singing Ace of Base” to “I called my friend to talk about kungfu and Irn Bru“. As well as the soul-sucking consequences of being an addict, where time just passes as the victim’s mind and body disintregrates: “Maybe I’m in a hibernation. And I sleep through the moon / going to sleep in my trunk / turning into something of werewolf with no motivation.”
‘Ghosthunting’ blurs the lines between humour and dark confession straight from the off. Springing to mind the first episode of the new Jordan Peele-produced Twilight Zone series where a comedian seemingly sells his soul for audience laughter, Christinzio is expressing his mental health issues like it’s a stand up routine. Although it’s no laughing matter – forgive the pun – he’s recognizing his previous mental health actions including hypochondria with a touch of self-ridiculing hindsight. The purpose is also to make the listener themselves feel as confused and as lost as a mentally-torn patient. Like with many tracks on this record it unpredictably and schizophrenically switches between two moods, although it’s partly due to his self-confessed attention-deficit personality, it’s also appropriate for a record that’s documenting an unstable mind. It switches back and forth between a dreamy harp that recalls the original Tomb Raider theme to a menacing threatening cello.
Like ‘Ghosthunting’, the slow and nocturnal ‘Arm Around Your Sadness’ also discusses the writer’s father’s death but mainly focuses on a lack of self-worth, to the point of forgetfulness and compulsive procrastination. The protagonist of the song is stuck in a loop (as demonstrated by the bookended mention of brain-draining daytime TV watching). He can’t even recall ordering a pizza when the door bell rings and rather than picking up a much-needed prescription he gets drunk instead. The songs uses subtle yet effective electronic effects that makes the listener feel stuck in the same vortex as the song’s character.
BC Camplight’s fifth album is named Shortly After Take Off because it’s pointing out the repetitive pattern of Brian Christinzio’s life. Every time he’s on the verge of success, whether mentally or musically, something drags him back down again. The evocative title track, which beautifully blends a jungle environment (through the vibraslap and marimba) with buzzy glam rock style, initially sounds like an aerophobic man that’s growing increasingly paranoid. However, the words “shortly after take off you’ll find me crashing down, don’t pick up the pieces” highlight the bad luck loop that the creator faces.
Shortly After Take Off is one of the best albums to listen to right now during lockdown. Although it’s a tad too short, its genre-shifting wildness is sure to entertain anyone experiencing boredom. And as mental health problems increase due to social restrictions, BC Camplight is here to show you that you can tackle the illness with a good dose of zany humour.