Album Review: Camens – Work/Life/Balance

Consistently brilliant UK indie rock outfit Camens channel all their frustration and heart into their compelling debut LP Work/Life/Balance

The tale of Stoke-on-Trent indie rock outfit Camens has always been something of an underdog story, the ballad of a bunch of overworked and ambitious friends who continue to punch above their weight and defy expectations. No heavy financial backing or friends of friends who can open doors and provide opportunities, the band have clawed their way to where they are now, through freezing cold practice rooms and sweaty, joy-filled rooms full of supporters. All of this work and effort has culminated in the release of their debut album Work/Life/Balance, a piece of work that is not only written about all of these factors, but that came to life because of them too, inspiring an earnest and thoughtful style that is as grounded thematically as it is ambitious stylistically.

The album opens with previous single ‘Cynical’, a soaring breakup anthem that sets the tone for the honesty and vulnerability that is set to come throughout the next 40 minutes. The track’s rousing and dynamic choruses feel monumental throughout, elevating the impact of its bittersweet narrative and making for a riotous time that already has you picturing the raucous reception it gets at live shows.

The confident grooves of ‘Poltergeist’ follow and showcase just how melodic and upbeat things can get from the band, with the track boasting an infectious charm that is compounded by the creativity and subtleties in the production and instrumentation, while ‘Lying Won’t Get You Anywhere’ has a more subdued and narrative-led approach that manages to feel immersive and moving while still making way or these moments of instantly captivating catchiness that feel impossible to resist.

The fun guitars and off-kilter stylings of ‘Outlines’ follow, another track that melds creative writing with thoughtful lyrics, something that seems like a killer combo to the band and comes across like it comes so naturally and easy to them. The upbeat nature of this track makes nodding your head along something of an inevitability, and the way that it continues to develop and expand as it progresses makes for truly engrossing listening throughout.

Following more energetic fun in the form of ‘Confetti and Kalashnikovs’, ‘Slept On The Sofa’ provides a more subdued and thoughtful moment that maintains the bands signature charming appeal while delving again into rocky-relationship territory in their typically relatable and raw fashion. The fuzzy guitars and pounding drums ensure that the track still packs a hell of a punch though, and it just makes the emotional moments hit all that harder.

If that track felt like something of a turn into more thoughtful territory, then the introspective piano balladry of ‘Salt’ completely doubles down on the idea, allowing for frontman Scott Powell’s emotive vocals and ever-engrossing lyrics to take centre stage, serving as the emotional crux of the album at around its half-way mark and offering a smart contrast to their usual high-octane approach.

Similarly relatable is the anxious ‘Sleep Patterns Repeating’, a track about struggling to sleep and having factors like stress and struggle keeping you up with your thoughts at night, accompanied with a similarly tetchy and atmospheric instrumental that matches the tone perfectly.

Following the return of an old favourite in the form of the improbably catchy ‘Danny Devito’, the Vampire Weekend-like ‘Do You Remember When?’ shows off the quirky and conversational side of their sound, again anchored by, you guessed it, a ridiculously catchy chorus that feels every bit as charming and likeable as you could hope for.

The thoughtful and nostalgic ‘Leave It For Now’ evokes more of that 2000s spirit, with the kind of summery guitar tones and laid-back appeal that feels timeless and enduring, making way for more of Scott’s thoughtful lyrics and the band’s engrossing, authentic appeal.

‘On the Walk From the Picturehouse’ closes out the album, a track that is already a favourite from the band. In the context of the album, it leaves thing on an optimistic note, providing a moment of hope and excitedness following a collection of tracks packed full of moments of perseverance and struggle in life and love. The charming and romantic single feels like the happy ending that this album and story deserves, a poignant emotional climax that takes the simple pleasure of meeting someone new and being filled with all these feelings of excitement and wonder.

As the final track reinforces, you have to take these kinds of risks to find out what life has in store for you, whether that’s in life, in love, in work, in pursuing your passions. Camens are a band that have continuously bet on themselves and dared to dream, to grow and expand as much as they can thanks to the quality and depth of their sound. This album is a celebration of that, all the frustration of being the plucky underdog and having to reach for the stars, finding their own doors and gateways to success. Work/Life/Balance is a triumph of an album that doesn’t work in spite of these factors, it works because of them, and it is all of these setbacks and hurdles that make Camens feel so authentic and real, and gives them the massive beating heart that has resonated with so many.