Wednesday, February 3, 2010

review: Los Campesinos! Romance is Boring

(Ed. note: Give a hearty handclap of intro to Quentin Kenny. Hopefully he'll appear around here more often than not. Follow him on Twitter here. Also, remember that time Los Campesinos! called us out on Twitter???)

Los Campesinos!
Romance is Boring
Arts & Crafts, 2010
Review by Quentin Kenny

Los Campesinos!: "There Are Listed Buildings"

Los Campesinos!: "The Sea Is A Good Place To Think of The Future"

This one is simple really: if you liked Los Campesinos! before, then you’ll like their newest, Romance is Boring. Probably a lot. Probably more with each listen. And if you didn’t like them before, this record isn’t going to change your mind. Yeah, that’s a mindless way to start a review (hey, it’s my first day here!) but the sentiment behind it feels oddly foreign in a scene where young artists reach levels of popularity incongruous with their level of experience or talent.

Undoubtedly, there’s growth and maturity and an expansion of sound on Romance is Boring, but those things that define why you feel the way you do about the family Campesinos are still present as well and once again those are the things that stand out. There's the overblown relationship drama, which lends itself to visions of kids using his own lyrics for the sort of bathroom scribblings Gareth himself decries on "We've Got Your Back." There are the accompanying explosions of sound that play like freak-outs, often before leading into massive multi-voiced harmonies.

Underneath it all still bubbles that domineering sense of emotion, ready to detonate at any time. And it's those moments that keep alive the band-despised notion that their music is "twee." (ed: see Twitter intro reference). The label no longer truly fits, but that doesn't make it any easier to ignore.

Amidst all that which reads and can sound like frivolity though, it’s tough to shake the impression that these guys know precisely what they’re doing. Or that what might come across as cacophony is instead quite calculated and reveals only and exactly what the band desires.

Halfway through the great opener, “In Media Res”, there’s a breakdown that does nothing if not reinforce the fact that these kids know more about their influences than I’ll ever begin to comprehend about those same bands. And there’s a subtlety of experience, manifest in how Gareth switches up the cadence in using “inevitably” during the choruses to the immediate favorite “Straight in at 101.”

Unsurprisingly, near every song has at least one of those trademark moments that cause goosebumps. It might come immediately after or during one of those eruptions, but it always demands to be replayed, sung along with at max volume, lingering hours after the stereo has been turned off as you realize you're still humming it. Moments such as the aforementioned breakdown in the opener, the opening plea of “Straight in at 101”, the gang vocals that close the record, or essentially any time a female voice emerges.

Those moments are everywhere and they raise up songs that heretofore felt throwaway. They are the comedown after the blast, but in that composure lies the true vitality of the song. So maybe it isn't necessary that Los Campesinos! always have a method behind their supposed madness, they certainly know how to throw 30 seconds together to make the question inconsequential.

Much has been made, and justifiably so, about Romance is Boring being the third album in 18 months for the band. The more important idea therein may be the rarity of any band making music this fun, this good, and this uncompromisingly emotional so consistently.

Hyperbole and affability aside, Los Campesinos! and their sound continue to grow. And by now, you’re either with them or you’re missing out.

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