Los Campesinos! have been around for a while now, seemingly outliving their own genre’s popularity, a twee and melancholic indie rock, that appears to have gone a little out of style lately. It is on their latest release ‘Hello Sadness’ then that the band really needs to evolve their sound to keep up with the times. Well, first things first; if you have never been a fan of this band, this album will do little to change your mind. Gareth Paisley‘s vocals are still aping The Cure‘s Robert Smith, and his song writing is still as introspective and melodramatic as ever, which will be an instant turn off for some. But, at least ‘Hello Sadness’ has some variety.
Album opener ‘By Your Hand’ is an almost jolly effort, a pseudo love song of sorts with a dark edge and enjoyable horn accompaniment. ‘Every Defeat A Divorce’ is rich and sprawling, the music positively effervescent beneath the lyrics of a despondent and lovesick man. It’s clear that Los Campesinos! aren’t afraid to explore the gamut of emotions and create interesting contrast between sound and meaning, which makes for some good results.
Admittedly there are some songs that fall flat or fail to ignite. ‘Life Is A Long Time’ is dull and forgettable, warbling on for far too long, while ‘Songs About Your Girlfriend’ feels too confident and cocksure, losing that likeable vulnerability that some of the other tracks have. No, it isn’t an album packed with hits or even great songs, but the few that are here are worth checking out. ‘Hello Sadness’ only really starts to get going when the band finally kick out the jams on ‘The Black Bird, The Dark Slope’, where they reveal the suppressed alt band they could be beneath all of their tweeness. It’s sinewy and high-energy and genuinely exciting, a million miles from weaker offerings like the faux-cool drudge of ‘Hate For The Island’.
‘To Tundra’ comes next, a subdued track channelling a post rock ambience and enjoyable cleanness that evokes the environment it is named after, studded with interesting moments of musical creativity. ‘Baby I Got The Death Rattle’ is a momentary stumble, but the band quickly regain their footing with the impressive final track, ‘Light Leaves, Dark Sees Pt. II’. Feeling more like a lost Manchester Orchestra b-side, with a wonderful organ part and perfectly understated guitar and backing vocals, this is the best track on the album. Paisley is as self-loathing as ever, but the tone sits perfectly amongst the staccato drums and sweetness of melody.
‘Hello Sadness’ is a tough album to make a decision on. In many ways, Los Campesinos! are still that same band; that one with the irritating songs about losing girlfriends and the polarising vocalist. But in tracks like ‘The Black Bird, The Dark Slope’ and ‘Light Leaves, Darks Sees’, it’s clear that there is a genuinely good band trying desperately to burst out from their old aesthetic.
Written by Grant Bailey