Let's all be nostalgic for a past we never had. A rash assumption, yes, and maybe it is somehow possible that kids growing up in Scotland these days really do live in a world where French films and Françoise Hardy records are in plentiful supply, snapped up in eager abandon as a way of dealing with the seemingly endless melancholy rain. Whether or not this quirk is peculiarly Scottish (most likely not; to wit: the New York rock scene of the past half-decade), it manifests itself most boldly there.

Beloved by late radio voice John Peel and produced by Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch, these Glaswegian twee-singers have all the stamps of approval necessary to guarantee Camera Obscura easy entry to American cult status. Oddly, though Hi-Fi is their debut album, it's only finding U.S. release now, after the modest success of their excellent and amusing second disc Underachievers Please Try Harder. Their natural appropriation of Belle's wallflower shuffle and dreamsicle girl-pop singing courtesy of Tracyanne Campbell is rigged up to their aching melancholic souls, both with words and tune, making them shoo-ins for the self-consciously moribund crowd.

Whether the goofy, prankish humor they squeeze out of their defeatist sentiments translates to normal folks remains to be seen. However, "Happy New Year" asks, "If I cry to set the mood, oh please could you cry too?" and suggests, "You could have hit me with a baseball bat." It's either Morrissey or the Ramones in disguise. ("Pen and Notebook" namedrops Johnny Marr, so that's perhaps a clue.) Either way, they're a rock critic's wet dream. It's doubtful that the group's lack of backbeat – which, admittedly, becomes infuriating over an entire album – can actually outlast or withstand the martial hip-hop rhythms that dominate U.S. youth culture. Over to the sidelines, kiddies, where you won't get hurt.


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