Tuesday, December 9, 2008

We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed - Los Campesinos!

We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

Los Campesinos!
Arts & Crafts Records.

SCQ Rating: 86%

As I settled into my subway nook after a long day, I glanced down at the Los Campesinos! album in my hand and thought “why now?”. After all, their debut Hold On Now, Youngster… made soaring waves in the blogosphere this past Spring and sported several hot tracks (some of which reincarnated from their 2007 EP), whereas this new release, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, slid quietly into an unusually late release date, bearing no singles, and advertised as a digital-only purchase on Amazon, I-Tunes, etc. So what made me bite this time around? The awareness that this Welsh band has evolved beyond its meager twee-ness into something far less predictable; an authentic pop-punk crossbreed that hoists the best of each genre’s attributes – melodic sensibilities and sneering aggression – then torches them together.

Through the half-hour therapy-session that We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed encapsulates, Los Campesinos! place their devil-may-care approach on the brink with ten anti-love songs that are infectious despite some thoroughly depressing topics. From discovering your lusted ex-lover making out with someone to the soundtrack of your favourite band in the background to drunk-dialing girls at 4am, this is lyrical masturbation at its most disaffected:

“I have broken down into the naked breasts
of a newly ex (no dignity)
I can only guess that she thinks about it
When she touches herself.
Shout at the world because the world doesn’t love you.
Lower yourself because you know that you’ll have to.”

It sounds damn embarrassing but the musicality imbedding these words makes it nothing short of celebratory. Coming from the band that only eight months ago titled a song ‘This is How You Spell: HAHAHA, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics!’, which instinctively made me respond “This is How You Spell: Kill Me Now”, this second album finds the Cardiff graduates putting their clumsy texts away and writing from the heart.

Perhaps the most striking WTF about this new Campesinos! outing is that recording began around a few unassuming b-sides, before flourishing into the ten sophomore-ready songs presented here. Lord knows how almost-lovesong ‘You’ll Need Those Fingers for Crossing’ or raucous ‘Ways to Make it Through the Wall’ could possibly originate from scrapped ideas, but regardless, the seven-strong band stretch from punk-infused bombast on the title track to static-laden waltzes (‘Heart Swells/Pacific Daylight Time’) and Pavement swaggers (‘It’s Never That Easy Though, Is It?’). When their songcraft dips in the least, it’s the fuzzy intermission of ‘The End of the Asterisk’ – likely that b-side in question – or the ho-hum finish of ‘All Your Kayfabe Friends’, which is serviceable on its own but faintly insignificant as far as massive finales go. This record deserves one.

It’s a compliment to Arts & Crafts that the last time I heard an indie-rock record this chockfull of ideas was Broken Social Scene in 2005. The parallels are notable, seeing Los Campesinos! climb closer to the riotous volumes and immaculate production of their label’s flagship band. We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed is a rare case where everything (the band’s views on love, records and hopelessness, Arts & Crafts’ support, lunar cycles, etc.) joins seamlessly to showcase a band at their most contagiously liberating. Miss this at your own peril.

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