Release Date: Nov 15, 2011
Record label: Arts & Crafts
Genre(s): Rock, Indie Rock
The first couple of records from these Welsh indie rockers were full of orchestral, ADD twee-punk, like Belle and Sebastian on a Ramones jag. But 2010's Romance Is Boring showed a restraint and musical muscle they continue to display on Disc Four. One thing remains constant: Gareth Campesinos' Anthony Michael Hall level of sexual frustration. He provides as many squirm-worthy scenarios as he does grandiose pop buildups and violin-laden hooks.
Los Campesinos! have produced this year exactly the record they needed to. If Romance Is Boring was a great sprawling mass of music, it featured some of the best material they, and any similar band in the contemporary era, have produced. But its vastness was its joy and its fault in equal measure, and the reason so many people levelled their sights at the mildly irritating sense of inconsistency.
Although the first three Los Campesinos! albums have been full of bright, up-tempo beats, their lyrics have always skewed dark. There’s been talk of vomit in gullets, “the most heart-wrenching break-ups of all time,” sad sex, eating disorders, and “destroying the hopes and dreams of a generation of faux-romantics.” So with Hello Sadness, the Campesinos! clan isn’t introducing depression. Far from it.
The music of Los Campesinos! has always been about straddling the line between sincerity and irony. It's a tough game to play, but thanks to songwriter Gareth Campesinos' wry humor and self-deprecation, the band has been able to make a career out of writing songs where breakups literally equal death. The music is intensely personal, but it's equally as inclusive-- Gareth paints himself as having it worse than anyone, but the unspoken acknowledgment that makes the band churn is that he really just has it as bad as everyone else.
Huh. Apparently, indie rock can still make me feel things. I was convinced that it had lost all significance, that it had been sucked dry of any genuine emotion, that it was, at this point in musical history, nothing more than a bunch of cheap grabs at “realness” used to grant fundamentally lacking work some superficial legitimacy. I was sure that I would never hear the lonely strains of a lightly fuzzed-up electric guitar without immediately thinking of generically Instagram’d images plastered over your average teenager’s Tumblr.
Los Campesinos! are a bit of an indie conundrum, but in the best way possible. Whereas so many artists act like the weight of the world is on their shoulders, the Cardiff rockers are sarcastic, witty, and self-deprecating. In three years, they’ve released three full-length records, including 2010’s Romance Is Boring. The 15-track LP was about as sprawling and abrasive as the band could get, occasionally moving into noise rock and containing song titles like “We’ve Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)”.
After the disaster of their previous album, Romance Is Boring, it would have been easy to write off Los Campesinos! and consign them to the scrap heap populated with bands that burned brightly and then lost it all in a flash. Amazingly, Hello Sadness reverses the downward spiral and sounds like something of a rebirth for the band. Despite recording again with John Goodmanson and still being resolutely morose and poetic, the band plays with far more energy and spirit here.
Despite all the billions the Simon Cowell Institute For Contestant Mutation Research has thrown at saving Ronan Parke from the career slaughterhouse that is puberty, you just can’t fight it: everything grows up. Even eternal toddler-pop combo [a]Los Campesinos![/a], once Cardiff’s twee-core tearaways blitzed off their wheelie-sneakers on choruses made of cherryade and crackling candy. There were dark and demented undercurrents to songs like ‘[b]We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives[/b]’, but musically their 2008 debut ‘[b]Hold On Now, Youngster…[/b]’ fizzed along with a youthful effervescence you either found as adorable as the YouTube baby who thinks a magazine is a broken iPad or made you feel like you were having acid jelly poured into your eyeballs while a hyperactive kitten clawed wildly at your testicles/ovaries.
If all the partners of past relationships in Los Campesinos! songs to date – every unrequited could-have-been, short-lived fling, and affair ending in separation or even demise – could somehow fill a room in some nightmarish purgatory, then it’d probably have to be a conference hall by now, at the least. Abortive relationships are a subject matter the band has always excelled at, as early on as Hold On Now, Youngster…. So an album entitled Hello Sadness, dedicated to 'love, loss, heartbreak… and World Cup exits', is not so much the embittered and disillusioned end to a once naïvely optimistic bunch of graduates, but more an acknowledgement, and refinement, of their strengths.
Los Campesinos! have always been a bedroom band for scruffy kids with poetic hearts. Now they just sound like Arcade Fire—an Arcade Fire of perverts out on day release, grownups dressed in waistcoats with their eyes on your panty-line. There’s the typical Campesino angst, shyness and coyness but now there’s a few mature flushes. Production devastates this; nothing sparks or excites anymore, it all rolls in expectedly.
As if responding to our irritation at that incessant Budweiser ad featuring the feverish guitar intro to You! Me! Dancing! by Los Campesinos!, the band has delivered an album packed with songs that will surely never be licensed to a sports-related beer commercial. Hello Sadness, the Welsh seven-piece's fourth album, makes good on its title and reels through a purported breakup experienced by lead singer Gareth Campesinos prior to the recording. Appropriately, Gareth's voice has gone from excited and jubilant to pained and miserable - an uncanny cross between Robert Smith and Conor Oberst.
There’s a Web site out there now called Drinkify.org that makes suggestions as to what alcohol you should drink while listening to a certain band. For hipster-friendly acts, old and new, such as Broken Social Scene, the Minutemen and Hüsker Dü, the site suggests that you should down a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. If you’re listening to more dour British acts like the Smiths, you should drink one bottle of Buckfast at room temperature.
Written while reeling from the scorpion sting of heartbreak, Gareth Campesinos' lyrics to his band's fourth album are navel-gazing in the extreme. The Black Bird, The Dark Slope transmutes his sense of despair into the figure of a crow that "wants to rip me limb from limb"; the song's apogee of self-pity comes when he wails "so sad to be me". When not focusing on his navel, Gareth obsesses over the "two pools of mud" that are his eyes.
Los Campesinos!—how long are they going to hold onto that exclamation point? Back when they got their start with 2007’s exuberant Sticking Fingers Into Sockets, it was the only punctuation that made sense. But here we are in 2011, and the matured overtones of the Welsh septet’s fourth proper full-length, Hello Sadness, might be better served with a number of punctuation marks. Let’s examine further.
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Though Los Campesinos! has changed its lineup a few times since forming in Cardiff in 2006, the seven-piece Welsh indie pop-rock outfit, known for smart-mouth lyrics and fast-paced hyper-active delivery, is still just as concerned with love and loss as on previous efforts with its latest release, Hello Sadness. The general themes spouting from the lips of frontman Gareth Campesinos! have changed only in that they have become perhaps less frenzied and frantic and more jaded. Gone are the wild whirlwinds of pop-punk hurricanes from the Campesinos!’s younger years—i.e.
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