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20 Watts Reviews Los Campesinos! Romance Is Boring by crumblymuffin

Listen to Los Campesinos! Romance is Boring

PREVIEW: VISIT Los Campesinos! MySpace

WE GIVE IT: 16/20 Watts

High School sucked.  We spent so much time ping-ponging between awkward romantic anxiety, blowout house parties and venomous social gerrymandering that a pair of headphones was one of our few solaces.  Our computers were our record stores, Pitchfork and AbsolutePunk our ‘zines, nay, our best friends.  Few bands can bear witness to those introspective melodramas of adolescence better than Los Campesinos!, the hyper-prolific Wales septet whose first two albums Hold On Now, Youngster and We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, set the bar for hyperactive orchestral indie pop and excruciatingly long song titles back in 2008.

What’s always struck me about Los Campesinos! is their embodiment of the Internet generation’s insatiable media consumption.  From name-dropping indie heavyweights like Ian Mackaye, The Talking Heads and K Records head Calvin Johnson, to their blog alluding to what seems like every currently relevant meme on the web, the band shows the ethos of a bunch of kids who spent their teenage years tucked away in their bedrooms with a pair of headphones and a DSL connection.

Romance is Boring, their third full-length, is what follows from such an active digital lifestyle: verbose, sour lyrics of heartbreak, rejection, snot-nosed rage and defiant triumph snaking through a sea of synths, gang vocals, glockenspiels, strings, horns and the ever-mentioned Pavement-esque guitar work of Tom Campesinos! (Yes, they all use Campesinos! as their last name).

Composition-wise, it’s hard to notice much of a difference between the first two albums and Romance.  The fact that their first album came out less than two years ago makes it a little difficult to judge the growth of the band so soon, but they do try their hand at new tricks, including a few dissonant guitar runs and more than a few thick walls of sound.  One glaring change is the absence of vocalist and keyboardist Aleksandra Campesinos!.  Replacing her is Gareth Campesinos!’s sister Kim, and sadly, the change doesn’t particularly do them justice.

All things aside, the band is still at the top of their game, sparking quick-fire guitar pop and turning slower numbers like opener “In Medias Res” into climactic barn burners of noise and melody careening off each other.  In others, like the eponymous track, the songs lurch unpredictably between dynamics, with crushing dissonance suddenly snapping into a typically anthemic chorus that couldn’t fit better with the band’s dynamic.  Other songs scream with the same vigor of previous releases, with sharp riffs spewed out over Gareth’s long lines of sex and music jokes (“I think we need more post-coital and less post-rock/feels like the buildup takes forever but you never get me off” – “Straight In At 101”).

Los Campesinos! seem to take pleasure in two things: being young and being miserable.  Their songs scream with longing and disgust, but they also fly about with the reckless abandon of youth that reminds you of that first time your older brother slipped you a bottle of Skyy Vodka and you spent the night rampaging through the suburbs before you passed out next to the toilet at 3 a.m.  So, maybe that’s how it goes: you take solace in the wild nights and get sick, get crazy or get your heartbroken, but you wouldn’t trade it for the world beacuse no matter how much it hurts, it’s so damn fun.

–Dan Creahan

1 Comment

Aleks sings on the record, not Kim. So the female vocals haven’t changed.

Comment by Steven

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