Campbell L. Sangster is a singer-songwriter hailing from Liverpool, famed for their critically acclaimed bands Send No Flowers, Kit and Bad Anorak 404. A pioneering queer songwriter, they release their highly anticipated solo album later in the year, preceded by the single Me and This Ghost.
Recorded in summer 2019, Me and This Ghost is destined to be both a working class queer anthem and an articulation of the unprecedented times in which we live. Pre-empting the international lockdown of 2020, the single is about extreme isolation, off-set by a seemingly buoyant musical backing that nevertheless maintains an unsettling dichotomy. The identity of the titular ghost could be many things; the leering threat of depression, the shadow of homophobia that stalks every single queer person on the planet as we try to carry out our daily routines, your own invisibility in a world desperate to exclude you.
Sangster feels they might be buried alive, with broken boots and an aching heart, yet there is light in the music that suggests all is not lost, and there is still a way out of whatever hole they have found themselves in. There is always joy, there is always a way out – you just have to know where to find it. This is a concept that all queers intrinsically understand.
It may be the most instantly accessible track on the LP, but Sangster’s work is truly multi-layered. Their music is a thoroughly rewarding experience that requires repeated listens to fully appreciate its true depth.
This is apparent immediately with the other tracks slated for the LP. Opener Why Didn’t I Say sets the precedent with Sangster’s intoxicating, expressive delivery and poetic knack for storytelling. Like all great storytellers, their brilliance lies in the apparent ease with which they are able to draw you into the world they are building. There is something cinematic, for example, about the gorgeous Summer Rain, where they open by setting the scene of “Light sheets of rain, invisible, soaking me to the skin”. You can see it, vividly.
This perhaps shouldn’t be surprising. Over the last decade, Sangster’s career has included scoring independent films and documentaries for both the BBC and Channel 4, becoming one of the country’s principle LGBTQIA+ composers. Though always a great storyteller, the extraordinary honing of this craft for the LP can’t have been hurt by these experiences.
With titles such as Minus One and End of an Era, there seems to be themes running through the record of loss, but also of rebirth. Although the closing Funeral Song is arguably the emotional core of the record, an epic meditation on mourning and death, the classic girl group feel of History Repeatin’ counter-acts this; Sangster recognises their “chance to walk away” during the song’s insatiable hook, offering redemption and a new phase.
The record fits perfectly into Sangster’s catalogue. A trailblazer in Liverpool music, they were a prominent figure with the critically acclaimed bands Send No Flowers and Kit during the 1980’s – a period when the city was once again an international epicentre of music, and a contemporary of such luminaries as Echo and The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, OMD, The La’s, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Dead Or Alive, China Crisis, A Flock Of Seagulls, Big In Japan and many more.
But, as an out queer front person during a particularly homophobic climate, they have an important place in the city’s cultural development, and it is clear they haven’t stopped. As acclaimed as their former bands were, Sangster is currently making the most vital music of their career as a solo act. A perfected mesh of folk, jazz, indie and pop makes Campbell L. Sangster’s current guise perhaps the most rewarding of their career so far.
Me and This Ghost is released on August 10th, with the full length album to follow later in the year.