Monday, November 17, 2008

Album Review: Los Campesinos!


Band: Los Campesinos!



Record: We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed



Label: Arts and Crafts (2008)



Rating: 79%




2008 has been a busy year for Los Campesinos! Hot on the heels of 2007's excellent EP, Sticking Fingers Into Sockets, the band issued their debut full length in February of this year to mostly positive reviews. The album didn't blow you away, but it definitely built on what made their EP so great; it had just the right amount of enthusiasm, silliness, and catchiness in the mix. For most bands, Hold On Now, Youngster... would be a debut album that they would be happy with, and one which they could tour to death or sell a few songs to teen dramas or commercials. More simply, it's the kind of debut album that a band is able to milk for at least a good two years. 

Apparently this was not an option for Los Campesinos! Because, instead of endlessly pushing and touring their debut, they went right back into the studio and recorded a proper follow up. We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed hasn't had a North American physical release yet, but it is available at emusic.com as an exclusive download right now. While I was waiting for the album to download, I was struck with am overwhelming feeling of dread. I couldn't shake the feeling that this release was just the label, or maybe even the band, trying to cash in on some demos or B-Sides lying around. I didn't think there was really a chance in hell that the band had already recorded a follow up, or a good one at that. Boy was I wrong.

Gone is the fuzzy and layered, Dave Newfeldish production, and, instead, this album has a much more polished feel to it. This would instantly make you think that that lo-fi, fun feeling that was a trademark of the first two releases would be gone, however, the fun remains, if not increases, with the sharper instrumentation and vocals on this record. The record treads along the usual indie-rock fair of heartbreak, self loathing, and cultural referencing, yet the way lead singer Gareth Campesino! crafts his songs with witty insight and delivers them with perfect annunciation makes this record anything but tired and retread. Guitars wail, keyboards chime, beautiful chaos ensues, and we are left with noisy pop songs that really work.

Highlights include: "Miserabilia", which plays as a catchy, Pavement-informed guitar song; "It's Never That Easy Though, Is It? (Song For The Other Kurt), which perfectly captures teenage jealousy when Gareth sings "I walked into the room to see my ex-girlfriend/who by the way, I'm still in love with/sucking the face of some pretty boy with my favourite band's most popular song in the background"; and "Ways To Make It Through A Wall", which contains my favourite line of the whole year- "I identify my star sign by asking which is least compatible with yours". Genius songwriting. These are just a few examples of the gems that are waiting to be found on this dense record.

In the age of bands taking years (I'm looking at you Radiohead), sometimes even decades (I still can't believe Chinese Democracy is actually coming out this year) to release follow ups, Los Campesinos! should be celebrated for doing the almost unthinkable and releasing two albums in one calender year. Neither of these albums are best of the year material, but they are definitely solidly entertaining releases that merit your attention. If you haven't already, go to emusic.com and get this release, hell, get both 2008 releases.

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