Los Campesinos! – Romance is Boring

January 01, 1970

(Arts & Crafts)

 

www.arts-crafts.ca

 

“I
had a momentary out-of-body experience, and saw myself as my parents  must see me, an astonishing self-propelled
creature that the cooing, helpless infant they still vividly recall has
inexplicably metamorphosed into.”

– Glenn McDonald

 

The problem with praising a band for maturing rapidly is
threefold: whether you mean to or not, you risk slighting their earlier work by
comparison, and if you focus too much on the difference between where they were
and where they are you can similarly lose sight of the virtues and flaws of the
‘mature’ work. And of course, mature is in scare quotes there because of the
third problem; if they’re progressing so rapidly, who’s to say that they’ve
stopped?

 

All of which is to say that, yes, Cardiff-based septet (octet
when playing live, these days) Los Campesinos! sound different on Romance Is Boring than they used to,
although this is obviously and immediately the same band. But for a variety of
reasons that’s not what’s interesting about this fantastic album.

 

Some of the changes are the basic sonic ones you have to
expect any band with any sense of adventure to try at some point; so the
euphoric chorus of “There Are Listed Buildings” is borne aloft by
horns as much as by Tom and Neil Campesinos!’s guitars, there are occasionally
strings, and there’s a greater range of tempos, volumes, and moods than the
still-young band’s first two (stellar) albums. But Romance Is Boring is very much in line with the people who made Hold on Now, Youngster…, a party
record with miles of sardonic wit, tortured self-reflection and romantic
despair behind every surging crescendo. For a band lacking any obvious
instrumental virtuoso, Los Campesinos! are still tight as hell and these songs
turn on a dime, from anthemic to despairing and back again (sometimes both at
once).

 

Singer and lyricist Gareth Campesinos! might still be getting
his heart (and occasionally ass) kicked by life, but he’s only going from
strength to strength in terms of his already precocious ability to hit moments
of both emotional truth and l’esprit de l’escalier sniping (which, since these
are songs and not conversations, actually manages to hit its targets). Romance Is Boring is the band’s darkest
album but it’s also their funniest, from the inflection given to lines like
“I’m pretty sure I can heeeeeeaaaaarrrrr you” to titling a song
“I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know,” to following up the
darkest song they’ve ever done (the harrowing “The Sea Is a Good Place to
Think About the Future”) with one that starts with them all yelling
“CAN WE ALL PLEASE JUST CALM THE FUCK DOWN?” The humour is vital not
just because it’s so well done (a rarity) but because Los Campesinos! refuse to
fall into the dichotomous trap of either taking themselves too seriously or of
abdicating the ability to be sincere.

 

So the same album that contains the line, directed at the band
more than their fans, “and if this changes your life did you have one at
all?” also has a closing track that makes “I can’t believe I chose
the mountains every time you chose the sea” a statement of utter emotional
desolation. This is what emotions are like, especially when you’ve got all the
energy and angst of youth in you; they all hit at once and no amount of wit can
hide the depth of their impact. As exuberantly brash as Los Campesinos!’s music
is, their real genius lies in their dedication to exploring that confusing,
turbulent, wonderful confluence.

 

Standout
Tracks:
“Romance Is Boring,” “In Media Res,”
“The Sea Is a Good Place
to Think About the Future” IAN MATHERS

 

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