LC! sound pretty darn well on album No. 6
I adore each and every Los Campesinos! album nearly equally.
The bratty snarl and twee chime of Hold On Now, Youngster, the guy-girl duets counterbalanced by Xiu Xiu-esque noise on Romance is Boring, the Goldilocks zone of We are Beautiful, We are Doomed and the rock-solid literary pop-rock of their later releases all have a special place in my heart and hard drives.
But for all their consistent, excellence, I’m not sure that LC! have ever had a better side one, track one than the opener for their sixth album, Sick Scenes. “Renato Dall’Ara (2008)” is a jam.
It’s a sub-3-minute blast of guitar and Gareth Campesinos! signature multi-syllabic, lilting bleat. It’s light, catchy and features some of the strongest group vocals since singer and keyboardist Aleks Campesinos! left the group. Imagine if Romance is Boring started off with “Romance is Boring”. It’s like that.
And it’s wholly appropriate, because aside from a couple of tracks toward the album’s back half, the energy level hardly flags. This is the most buoyant and boisterous record sincetheir 2008 debut, and I’d have to say it’s among their best.
It’s fairly clear from the music, and at one point even explicitly stated, that Gareth’s songwriting focus has moved past the sometimes plodding malaise that marked long stretches of No Blues and Hello Sadness. Not that LC! staples have gone anywhere. Soccer, relationship woes, self-loathing, death obsession, class-ism, anxiety and heart swells are still all over the album, but they’re presented with acceptance and urgency. A sort of declaration : I feel crummy, but I really feel it.
While the album has a uniform urgency, there’s a wide variety of sounds on the back half of the album.
“The Fall of Home” is a delicate, acoustic number about a changing, declining hometowm that musically recalls the prettiest moments of the All’s Well that Ends EP.
The shiny, electronic “Here’s To The Fourth Time” has some legitimate pop chops, and the synthesizer pops up to add a little extra crunch to “For Whom the Belly Tells”. There’s legitimate guitar heroics on the bridge for “Got Stendhal’s”. None of it is exactly earth-shattering experimentation, but it adds to the lively feeling.
And, LC! absolutely stick the landing with closer “Hung Empty”, which is a thoroughly excellent song. It finishes things off with fist-pumping ennui that you’d only expect to find on a Los Campesinos! record.
I cannot wait to sit down with liner notes and lyrics and give this another serious listen or five.