Why does anyone like Los Campesinos!? Goofy exclamation points aside, their sound is a mess, their singing is flat and the hit track on their debut album “Hold On Now, Youngster…” is entitled ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ A song title that makes one weary of yet another band adopting and beating to death the indie pop tropes of the past decade. Their lyrics are full of self-conscious angst and ironic self-mockery- just to tack on a few more indie-rock clichés. But it just so happens that there is something endearing about Los Campensinos!. Their chaotic sound is actually a product of flush arrangement and meticulous production. And their lyrics are thorough and honest. Despite their weaknesses, Los Campesinos! manage to win haters over with their hook-laden, inanely catchy pop songs.
On their second studio album “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed”, the Cardiff-septet drops the saccharine romanticism of its predecessor to give way for fear, resentment, and jealousy. Lead singer Gareth Campesinos opens the album with the sentiment “Think it’s fair to say that I chose hopelessness”. Accompanied by buzzing synthesizer and blustering guitar, it’s fair to say this also sets the tone for the rest of the record. From beginning to end, we learn of hearts on fire, extorting money, puking chips, and things left unsaid. Campesinos’ diaristic style leaves everything on the table, including honestly.
The organized chaos of “We Are Beautiful” reminds one of a Broken Social Scene album, hence the lavish instrumentation and lush Spector-esque walls of sound. However, Los Campesinos do not settle simply for amplitude and boisterousness. In the beautiful refrain to “You’ll Need Those Fingers For Crossing” one can hear a triumphant melody that moves from distorted guitar to xylophone to violin and then to a reverberated fade out.
As a band, Los Campesinos! definitely have room for improvement. For now, however, “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed” is certainly something that you (!) and I (!) can dance to.