Most of this success comes from Campbell, whose bruised vocal swoon induces much hanky soiling. (In something of an inversion of the B&S formula, the group's male singer, John Henderson, is far less expressive, resigned to using a Leonard Cohen-esque croak.) But Campbell is doubly smart: She knows no one wants to hear a gal cry in her beer for 45 minutes, so she avoids the solipsism of a pity party by looking at love from all sides -- be it lost, found, or deeply embittered. On "Suspended From Class," she makes a pass at a boy, suggesting hopefully, "I've a feeling that pigs might fly, pigs might fly." Then, on "Teenager," she slags a rival, singing, "For your birthday she sent you a card/ She didn't sign her name, she gave an autograph." Later, on "Books Written for Girls," she casts her gaze inward, suggesting, "You probably thought I had more upstairs." Self-hatred, jealousy, envy, and amorousness all fall gracefully from Campbell's lips. By the end of the CD, she sounds like the bear on the cover looks -- a bit worn and tired, but willing to strap on her glasses and head back into the fight.
With B&S's last LP, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, Stuart Murdoch seemed quite happy -- and the album suffered for it. With Under Achievers, Camera Obscura does the suffering, so you don't have to.