n prehistoric times, when the first caveman consciously struck a musical note with a rock against metal, there was silence in the cave for a short time afterwards. The man next to him, in response, created the same sound. The next man in line, of course, sneered at the second man, claiming that his sound only replicated what the first had done. Ever since the beginning of time, then, there has been repetition of forms that the majority enjoy. And critics have found themselves complaining about the futility of treading a path already worn by innovators. Camera Obscura act, The Dipsomaniacs, embody the creative portion of the story, taking the best elements of psychedelic pop and expounding upon them. With this, their fifth album, the group has added numerous touches to their basic sound, continuing in a general line towards increased studio experimentation. Praying Winter is a long shout from the early days of 4 track recordings and a bare bones instrumental arrangement. Instead, the album features 18 different instruments in its construction and benefits from a clean, airy sound.
The opener, “Dear Mrs. Widdecombe”, is a perfect pop song, marrying a light acoustic guitar melody with a strict drum pattern. Strings add color, providing the staccato rhythms of the bridge. The lyrics detail the simplicity of being wowed by a beautiful woman and her charms. Øyvind Holm’s lyrics and songwriting shine here, painting the protagonist as the king of his own world, until Dear. Mrs. Widdecombe comes in and commits regicide. Mr. Widdecombe is not discussed.
The lyrical cleverness continues on the next song, in which Holm is “naked, yet fully dressed”. Luckily Holm tends more toward the forthright, rather than reaching for more weak, yet clever, lines on much of the album. Holm is more concerned with getting his point across than winning awards for poetry, as he proves on songs like “Don’t Think You’re Safe”, in which he states that “When you tell me what you what you know / Every word you say is true / And I will owe my heart to you / Do you mind?”
The musical backing for each number is a far more interesting proposition than most of Holm’s love stories, thankfully. The group runs through myriad of styles relating to the classic psychedelic pop of the Byrds. It’s so brilliant a pastiche, in fact, that on songs like “No. 2 Ventricle Road” and “She Weighs Her Time” you can barely tell the time in which it was recorded.
The timeless quality of this psychedelic pop music is not a question that needs to be answered, nor brought to bear on the record. With their previous four records, The Dipsomaniacs have been chasing down the type of perfection that the groups of the late 1960s were also chasing. On Praying Winter, they’ve gotten closer than ever.