“This is an examination of madness and loss,” says Brian Christinzio, the inimitable force behind BC Camplight. “I hope it starts a long overdue conversation.”
Fired by his ongoing battle with mental illness, Shortly After Takeoff is the final, and finest, chapter of what Christinzio calls his “Manchester Trilogy”, following 2015’s “How To Die In The North” and 2018’s “Deportation Blues”. All three albums were created after the native Philadelphian had moved to Manchester. Like Deportation Blues, Shortly After Takeoff spans singer-songwriter classicism, gnarly synth-pop and ‘50s rock’n’roll, with Christinzio’s similarly distinctive, flexible vocal carrying a fearless approach to lyrical introspection, but the new album is a major leap forward in songwriting sophistication and lyrical communication
“It’s important to stress that this isn’t a redemption story,” he says. “I'm a guy who maybe lives a little hard and I’m in the thick of some heavy stuff. But as a result, I think I've made my best record.”
The “heavy stuff” has come thick and fast for Christinzio. Just days before How To Die In The North was released, he was deported and banned from the UK because of visa issues. Estranged from his new home, his girlfriend and his dog, unable to promote his album and back home with his parents, Christinzio sunk deep into the dark. An Italian passport, care of his grandparents, eventually allowed him to re-settle in Manchester, but then just days before Deportation Blues was released, his father Angelo unexpectedly died.“I went into a spiral that was worse than any time since my twenties,” he recalls. Hence the title Shortly After Takeoff: the feeling of being suddenly thwarted by what life throws at you. Making matters worse was a neurological disorder that returned after years in remission: “I see TV static, and it messes with how my brain interprets everything from sound to my own feelings.”One way to process tragedy is comedy, which elevates Shortly After Takeoff to a heightened plateau, from grief-stricken vulnerability to armoured bravado, from the black dog of depression to gallows humour.
Bleak comedy is evident from the album’s first song. ‘I Only Drink When I’m Drunk’ features Christinzio’s trademark ‘keep you on your toes’ style. ‘Ghosthunting’ similarly changes tack, between serene melody, classical harps, and pounding passages. Though the Nilsson-esque ‘I Want To Be In the Mafia’ (Christinzio’s favourite lyric on the album) and the elegantly sombre ‘Arms Around Your Sadness’ are less changeable, the way ‘Back To Work’ trades dreamy AOR and robotic funk, “sums up this record perfectly,” Christinzio feels. “The verse seems to make sense, then out of nowhere, boom boom…just when you think you have it figured out… It’s the never-ending cycle of mental illness.”