Sunday, March 21, 2010

Romance Is Boring - Los Campesinos!

Romance is Boring

Los Campesinos!
Arts & Crafts Records.

SCQ Rating: 72%

Well, the hangover was bound to come at some point. After two rapid-fire releases that first established Los Campesinos! as undergrad pranksters (Hold On Now, Youngster) then self-destructive deviants (We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed), it seemed appropriate that LP3 would find the Wales-based seven-piece anchoring their lovelorn lyrics and cathartic outbursts to increasingly grayer rainclouds. And anchor they have; there are moments on Romance Is Boring so lushly defeatist, you’d swear Gareth Campesino! and his bandmates were throwing themselves overboard. First single ‘The Sea Is a Good Place To Think Of the Future’ hinted at great things, covering all the bleak observations that serrated their earlier record’s good humour but embracing that genius sans irony, and by the close of first song ‘In Medias Res’, you’ll wish you could hand-wrap, mail and share this record with that one girl or guy you easily could’ve landed with had you both just been vulnerable enough at the same time.

After such a brilliantly messy, heart-stopping opener, it’s almost a shame that the whole of Romance Is Boring is equally unbalanced. For every track that represents a stepping-stone for the seven-piece band in terms of songwriting or musicianship, there’s a brief regression into the band’s frantic indie-pop fare. The woozy, orchestral beauty of ‘Who Fell Asleep In’ – a Los Campesinos! track unlike any other – is followed by the noisy ‘I Warned You Do Not Make An Enemy Of Me’ which rifles through chords with hapless abandon, just as the edgy verses of the title track devolve into the predictable schoolyard vocal lines that characterized Hold On Now, Youngster. Their transformation into fatalistic, too-emotional-for-emo songwriters ends up stealing the show on Romance Is Boring, unintentionally rendering its upbeat material phoned-in by comparison. After two albums of caffeine-addled rock so jubilant Gareth had to squeeze his lyrics in as if his band wouldn’t wait for him, it’s exciting to hear them sobering to the realities of age and, well, sobriety, and adjusting their song structures to be more spacious, more fulfilling. Romance Is Boring tries to have it both ways, honouring their indie-pop fanbase while wallowing in a richer, textural sound. And while it doesn’t all iron out into one cohesive record, it does make a convincing case that we’ve pinned Los Campesinos! strengths entirely upside-down.

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