Monday, February 1, 2010

Los Campesinos!

Romance is Boring
Los Campesinos!

I listen to a lot of hyper-precise music; Field Music, Gorillaz, early-to-mid-and-latest-period Blur, Radiohead, Elvis Costello. The list could go on. Even Spoon are precise, albeit in a way that can occasionally come across as remarkably im-. While I dislike bands that are too precise, such as Supertramp and, increasingly, middle-period Coldplay, I seem to enjoy it on a general level. So it is always a great pleasure when I find messy bands I enjoy.

Los Campesinos!, a Welsh band from Cardiff, have been around since 2006, and this is the first of them I've heard. They feature a male and a female lead singer, both of whom have good voices with great personality, and that's the first thing they have going for them in my book. Second, they have a good variety. Opener "In Media Res" is a nice piece of work, with one of the only bits of music I've heard in the last several years which I would go so far as to describe as dangerous.

Los Campesinos! have a very nice sense of melody, though they seem to do their best to hide it. "Plan A," for example, is a rapid fire two minutes of almost noise, and, if you can make it through that track, you'll be good for the whole album. It's the heaviest thing here by a long shot. The other thing I like about them is, I think, the lyrics. Whilst that may sound a weird thing to say, I've never focused on the lyrics all the way through a song (one very notable exception coming up in a moment), but when I catch fragments of them, they're very good. They seem to be picking out details from the ether, and using them to tell wonderful little stories. "I think we need more post-coital and less post-rock," he says in "Straight in at 101." Which reminds me, they also have a very nice way with titles.

The best example of all of this, and the first great song I've heard all year, is "The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future." The song had me so excited early on that I created a teaser post about a week ago. It opens simply enough, with a simple repeating guitar figure. Strings enter, followed by drums, and it feels like you're standing on a wharf, looking out over the ocean. The first verse opens with "I grab a hold of her wrist and my hand closed from tip to tip. I said, "You've taken the diet too far, you've got to let it slip." One of the more gorgeous lyrics I've read recently is, "I ask her to speak French, and then I need her to translate. I get the feeling she makes the meaning more significant." It's a perfect bit of story telling, the whole thing. And it's sonically fascinating, which is a bonus most bands with writing of this caliber don't bother with.

They seem to know the only way to follow that song, on most albums an ideal closer, is to distract you with something unexpected, and so "This is a Flag. There is no Wind" opens with "Please can we all calm the fuck down?" It's a flawless transition. That the rest of the album doesn't pale in comparison to "The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future" is merely an indication of how proud Los Campesinos! should be of this mess.

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