Release Date: Feb 24, 2017
Record label: Wichita
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Having built said career on quarter-life neuroses, heartbreak and a macabre preoccupation with death, it would be easy for the unfamiliar to dismiss Los Campesinos! as being melodramatic, depressing even. But while it's clear they have no qualms flirting with, even relishing in the darker aspects of life, there's always been humour behind the heartbreak, and an optimism behind their frothy, poppy hooks. Sick Scenes is the band's sixth album, and exudes the kind of effervescent energy not seen since their debut.
Welsh outfit Los Campesinos! make their striking return to recording in the form of Sick Scenes, their sixth album and first since 2013's No Blues. The seven-piece stay true to cathartic, anthemic form, riddling their songs with the same feelings of angst, heartbreak and general confusion that resonated with fans before. Album opener "Renato Dall'Ara (2008)" kicks off in perfect LC! fashion with melodic, cheery riffs and a cheeky chorus that you'll find courage in singing along to: "All I want tonight is a friend with a fight / Say it to my face if you say she ain't your appetite.
R aw-nerved, bare-souled and sharp enough to draw blood with those glockenspiels, Los Campesinos! were one of the keepers of the mid-2000s indie glut. As they enter their uncertain 30s, the former tweecore enfants terribles continue to grow up disgracefully, balancing a warmer, mature sound with a still-angry energy. "Not right to call this old age, but it certainly ain't youth," admits Gareth David on the punchy, rousing Hung Empty, while reflecting that "depression is a young man's game" on the dreamier, wistful 5 Flucloxacillin.
There’s a certain type of person that Wales’ premier self-effacing indie gang Los Campesinos! have carved out a voice for since first breaking through over a decade ago. Not for them are #newyearnewme, the mannequin challenge, ‘banuary’, ‘movember’ or ‘nu-ly’ (a kind of mid-year life overhaul that hasn’t been invented yet, but give it a couple of years, trust us). They’re the ones who approach life with a wry smile and consolatory pint down the local, knowing in the back of their minds - as singer Gareth Campesinos! has regularly reminded us for the band’s duration - that they and everyone they love will eventually die.
Hey, remember that scene in The Simpsons where Homer, faced with imminent death, goes through the entirety of the grieving process in absurdly quick fashion? A glimpse of a golden era, for sure, though you get the sense that if you were sat in a similar position and the grim task of relaying the pertinent information fell to Los Campesinos! that maybe, just maybe, you'd be able to make peace with it. As if tempting fate, this scribe would wind up on a hospital trolley about a week after penning the above words, frantically asking a bemused doctor, 'Am I dying?'. A rueful shake of the head and dismissive laugh never felt so welcome, but the truth, dear reader, is that the kissing disease should be immediately renamed as there is zero gaiety or frivolity to be enjoyed when laid up with such an excruciating and energy-draining nightmare.
Gareth Campesinos! is our bard of throwing up. For a decade, nearly every word that has come out of the Los Campesinos! singer's mouth has presented itself with rash inelegance, candidness, and the need to be ejected from his body this very second . But sometimes, as anyone who's stared down the depths of a toilet bowl knows, vomit is just vomit. Like that time he sang of an awkward hookup that was blown when a girl upchucked all over his rented tuxedo; o r when he recounted that early heartbreak when he got wasted, ate too many potato chips, and then deposited the greasy snack right back onto a soccer field .
The endurance of Los Campesinos! has made it abundantly clear that the band are more than the novelty they once appeared to be in the mid-2000s. By all rights, they should have faded away once their joke had worn thin, much in the same way that most of that past decade seems like a distant, irrelevant memory. Perhaps this is due to their lack of adherence to any trend; they were only grouped in with the vague signifier of "indie" because of their audience and label circumstances.
If Euro 2016 made you more ashamed to be British than Theresa going gooey over Trump, spare a thought for Gareth David of Cardiff alt-pop maestros Los Campesinos!. He watched plucky underdogs Wales crash out in the semis while drinking his way through an existential crisis in Portugal - hence the sixth LC! album they made there has him dreaming of 'anchoring that midfield like the anchor in my midriff' on I Broke Up In Amarante. International footballing nightmares or not, David has been a master of torrid punk-pop angst since 2008's We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, and Sick Scenes is among LC!'s most accomplished collection yet.
One could be excused for wondering why Los Campesinos! are still making records at this late date. When they burst onto the scene in 2007 with a bracing batch of singles -- that sounded like it took the studio engineer's intense concentration to corral the unbridled excitement and frantic energy that came flying off the band like a technicolor rain shower -- they seemed destined to burn brightly for a little while, then burst. Fast forward a decade and they've released their sixth album, Sick Scenes, and it's hard to reconcile the mature, slickly produced music on display with the music they made in their early days.
Almost exactly nine years to the day since their debut, 'Hold On There, Youngster' was unleashed on the world, Los Campesinos! release album number six -- 'Sick Scenes'. Over this past near-decade, the band's transformation from C86-indebted merchants of twee to skilled songwriters and producers has been one of British music's best and most unheralded success stories. 'Sick Scenes' was written in Portugal during Euro 2016, and is a lot more rousing than the events that accompanied its creation.