Los Campesinos!

Los Campesinos! Discography: Hold on Now Youngster… and We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

This seven-piece indie pop rock group stands as a testament to music getting better and better as time goes by. All members, who also balance the use of their wide instrument range, including the two guitarists, two keyboardists, bassist, drummer, horn player, violinist and glockenspiel player, share vocal duties, with a witty combination of snide whiny male vocals countered by melodic girlish-toned responses. Such a diverse range of talents for a group that all claims the same last name of ‘Campesinos!’ (Think like the Ramones, but with an exclamation point). Both these albums were released in 2008, a mere eight months apart, no minor feat considering the considerable tour between the release of their debut and their sophomore effort. Described as a combination of Art Brut’s tongue-in-cheek style of garage rock with Architecture in Helsinki’s instrumentation, as an emotional and literate lyrical whirlwind, and as simply a roaring good time, Los Campesinos! is worth a cursory listen at the very least, I assure you.

Hold On Now, Youngster… - 5/5

Despite being released so closely together, these albums do not hold as much in common with each other as one might think. In fact, Hold On and We Are really have a whole yin-yang, light vs. dark, happiness/misery duality thing going on, with Hold On being the lighter of the two, with only hints of how low the band will go in the near future. But for now, we are treated to some of the happiest music on the face of the earth, with catchy hooks and sing-along lyrics that tread a thin line between nonsense and pure poetry. All the tunes here have a decent amount of progression in their writing style, but never let the album slow down from the flat-out dash for more than a breath or two. This is the more balanced of the two albums, with male and female vocals sniping back and forth in an intimate conversation gone very, very wrong. The composition defies against easy dissection with guitar and keyboards trading off leads and melodies while violin, horn and glockenspiel all hitting highlights until the music reaches the shout out moments which define the kind of charismatic energy that makes this group such a winner. It is actually these brilliant dynamics, which allow the band to employ the range they do without appearing sloppy.

If you want an actual complaint on this group, it is almost too high energy. Let’s face it, if you listen to this album tired, you’d better catch a second wind or you’re going to develop an attitude worthy of a middle-aged retiree trying to keep those damn kids off the lawn. Selected songs include the brilliant opener ‘Death to Los Campesinos!’, the delightfully ironic ‘My Year in Lists’, the slightly deeper, emotionally revealing ‘This is How You Spell “Hahaha, We’ve Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics”, which makes up for it’s slightly annoying chorus with the closing spoken word confession, and the cutesy closer of ‘Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks’.

We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed - 4.5/5

However, just as for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, for every moment of brilliant luminosity and comradery, there is a moment of bleak visions and forlorn despair. We Are is a collection of those bleak moments. The sassy back and forth from the earlier Hold On is replaced with the male vocals taking on the role of confessor of romantic failings, and the sweet female vocals take a backseat, with a more sympathetic air. Even the compositions trade their happier approach of indie pop, for a more aggressive and desperate style, and all the moments where you felt like you wanted to laugh at the incredulities of relationships from before are substituted by lyrics you remember after a fight with that special someone. The lyrics are still witty in their nonsense poems nature, but with a darker tone. The shout-out moments are no longer of jubilation, but frustration, making this undeniably an album by the same band, but feels like a complete mental opposite of everything they were before. The album is deeper, but for some reason, just not as evocative as its predecessor.

The main complaint is this album is just not as fun as before, which is of course the nature of the beast, but one a more positive note, everything here is slightly slower from the earlier whirlwind, giving a listener a greater chance to appreciate the songs. This might be what they were going for on the songs ‘Between and Erupting Earth and an Exploding Sky’ and ‘Heart Swells/ Pacific Daylight Time’, but instead their, different composure gives them a feeling of being half-developed song ideas. On the other hand, songs like the title track, ‘You’ll Need Those Fingers for Crossing’, and ‘Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1’, while not instant hits, are perfect at what they do, giving the listener an out for any emotional angst. Check out Hold On first and if you like that, I promise you will like this too.


Borees said…
the = los
los the beatles NOOO!
is the beatles,
is not the los campesinos, is los campesinos
Tom B said…
I'll pass the message on to the author :P