Release Date: Jan 26, 2010
Record label: Arts & Crafts
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
As a thesis statement for Los Campesinos!’s third album, “romance is boring” is, if not an outright lie, then at the very least a red herring. After all, lead singer and lyricist Gareth Campesinos! spends the album’s 45-plus minutes thoroughly debunking his own theory, and he does it with relish. However, that should’ve been obvious anyway.
One of the earliest Los Campesinos! singles came with a daisy chain of paper dolls tucked into the sleeve, each Campesino! holding hands and smiling wide. Had a razorblade popped out of 2008's We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, I doubt anyone would've blinked an eye. Over the past three years, Los Campesinos! transformed themselves from a smart, spry, neon pop group possessed with a seemingly boundless everykid exuberance to a bunch of noisy, angry, funny weirdos.
Wales-based Los Campesinos! are doing a formidable job of making us forget that they were ever a wee bit twee. On their third (some will argue "second") album in two years, the prolific girl/boy septet dial up their hyperactive tempos, filled-to-the-gills arrangements and wry, cutting sentiments on life and love. [rssbreak] Articulate vocalist Gareth Campesinos! takes a page from Rivers Cuomo's Pinkerton diaries when he verbosely sings about wanting more post-coital and less post-rock, declaims his jaded views on relationships (namely, that romance is boring) and makes clear his preoccupations with aging and death.
For those of us that still persisted in seeing Los Campesinos!' brutal-yet-eloquent diatribes on youthful despondency as exaggerated tongue-in-cheek sentiment, last Christmas Eve proved how seriously the Cardiff-based seven-piece actually take it. “I put so much personal and biographical stuff into songs that it as good as breaks me” vented lead singer Gareth, regarding the leak of this, their third album. Whilst the outpouring was, of course, 100 per cent justifiable, it also completed a transition the group had been making since We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed’s speedy follow-up to Hold On Now, Youngster tried to move them away from being the band that earnest 16-year-old lovers could sing along to.
Los Campesinos! are prolific and exhausting... Los Campesinos! are prolific and exhausting, so it’s a surprise that ‘Romance Is Boring’ is this measured and mature. Gareth’s vocal is less shrill these days, his lyrics are less desperate (though just as despairing), and the band’s soundscapes are increasingly diverse. There are still cuts that hark backwards, especially ‘There Are Listed Buildings’ and the title track – both huge, shouty anthems – but there’s also room for tempo-slowing passages (‘200-102’), a mighty roar (‘Plan A’), a majestic ballad (‘Who Fell Asleep In’) and the dramatic crescendo of ‘The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future’.
What misdirection, that title. Los Campesinos!, a band focused entirely on the messy entanglements that come with love and its attendants (like breakups and a girl not liking K Records), have decided Romance Is Boring. Tongue in cheek? You bet. Three songs here are predicated on the notion that there is a list of 200 heart-wrenching breakups that is discussed by talking heads on TV.
Growing up is rubbish, isn’t it? You finish school with no idea of the adult world and the belief that anything is possible. You think your dreams could come true, though you’ve no idea how you’re going to make it happen, but hey, you’re young and responsibility doesn’t exist for you. Then, capitalism bites and you have to start paying your way and guess what, before you know it you’ve got an office job for a multi-national corporation and your dreams get relegated to weekends.
A grown-up examination of young love Barely a year after this Welsh band’s We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed listed scattered hookups and throw-ups, Romance Is Boring elaborates on the cause of it all: a girl with remarkable moles on her back. This emotionally turbulent journey underpins the band’s best lyrics yet, as it thrashes between drunken begging and dangerous insults: “I am a pleasure cruise, you are gone out to trawl / Return nets empty, nothing at all. ” Fuzzy atmospherics crash in, overpowering some of Romance’s most brutal quips, forcing the band to struggle at making its musings rhythmic and begging for its earlier punk-twee punctuation.
Everyone has one of those friends. That guy who, after graduating from college, decides he is going to reinvent and/or “find” himself, then embarks on some kind of major soul-searching exodus (e.g. hiking the Appalachian Trail, backpacking through Europe, going to India, etc.). This guy then returns and is essentially the same as when he left.
When Los Campesinos! emerged in 2007, they had a tendency to exasperate as much as they engaged. For every killer single, such as You! Me! Dancing!, there would be something else that felt like one was being smashed over the head with musical instruments by a talented but hyperactive toddler. The third album from the Cardiff indiepoppers is their strongest yet; one couldn't call it streamlined – singer Gareth (no last names) is a man with an awful lot to say, and little time in which to say it – but it feels a little less cluttered than before.
Los Campesinos! third album, 2010’s Romance Is Boring, attempts to be an amalgamation of their first two records, blending the head-long rush of energy that was Hold on Now, Youngster with the thoughtful, somewhat morose heaviness of the difficult second album, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed. It seems like a wise move on paper, but it doesn’t work out on the record. Romance Is Boring is an over-cooked, under-performing album that ultimately falls short of their first two efforts, and sounds like the work of a band that isn't really enjoying making records anymore.
This is the album that will decide the longevity of Los Campesinos!. Everett True 2010. It’s noisy. It’s frantic. It’s crammed full of noise and words and sounds and that most nebulous of substances, ‘attitude’. It’s rather articulate, in an “I am writing this at 7.10am / On the hard ….