Released 29th October
Wichita Recordings / Turnstile Music
Los Campesinos! are the band that sound tracked my pre-adult years. After discovering their early demos on MySpace at the age of 13 I was hooked. From there I went on to purchase everything they’ve ever released on every format (apart from the rare, US-only Sticking Fingers Into Sockets 10”), 10 of their t-shirts and see them a total of 12 times live. Fan boy? Certainly. Watching the band grow up as I did and progress from their somewhat twee beginnings to making brooding-yet-raw punk influenced indie-rock and involving myself in their active online community means no other band comes close to matching the emotional attachment I feel towards Los Campesinos!. This is why it pains me to reveal that latest offering No Blues is the band’s worst album yet.
Musically, No Blues feels very flat: it sees Los Campesinos! simplify their sound to become cleaner and more pop influenced. There’s a lot less going on in this album compared to previous efforts making it a far less arresting listen; the visceral emotion is turned down and careful production turned up. For instance first track ‘For Flotsam’ bursts into a jaunty hook after a stripped down opening, but it feels very restrained and careful. A world away from the brutal audio assault of ‘I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know’ from the band’s third album, and career highlight, Romance Is Boring. ‘A Portrait Of The Trequartista As A Young Man’ trudges through two dreary minutes before swelling into an eventual climactic chorus in which singer Gareth Campesinos! reflects “We all know we’re gonna die” over the backing of serene vocals from sister Kim and a jazzy saxophone melody. The pay off doesn’t quite justify the precedent however.
As the aforementioned title suggests, football is a very strong lyrical influence on the album, and as an enthusiast of the beautiful game this holds a certain appeal. Being a Leeds fan, the line “People laugh, they will call it folly, but we connected like a Yeboah volley” swiftly becomes one of my favourite lyrics. Yet these references are too ubiquitous; Gareth is at his best when bitterly detailing emotional turmoil straight from the heart and it feels like perhaps football is used to cover up the absence of any real hurt. Niche puns don’t have quite the same emotional impact.
Los Campesinos! still utilise the collaboration of male and female vocals to good effect. The repeated harmony of “They say you and me are tautology” on lead single ‘What Death Leaves Behind’ is immensely catchy and cleverly reflects the sentiment of the words. Yet these exciting moments are uncharacteristically rare across No Blues, and it sounds like the band are stagnating.
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