It’s noisy. It’s frantic. It’s crammed full of noise and words and sounds and that most nebulous of substances, ‘attitude’. It’s rather articulate, in an “I am writing this at 7.10am / On the hard dry tarmac of a vacant forecourt” (I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed. So You Know) way. It buzzes where it should buzz (A Heat Rash in the Shape of the Show Me State; or, Letters From Me to Charlotte), and drops pace and goes all moody where it feels the need to drop pace and go all moody (the brief eulogy to former NME scribe and love-hate figure Steven Wells, Heart Swells/100-1). On occasion it’s irritating, enlivening, tepid, chugging, over-charged with brass sections and loud guitars, sulky, brattish, brilliant – and recalls overwhelmingly the holy indie triumvirate of Bis, Pavement and early Bright Eyes.
It is, of course, the new album from Los Campesinos!, the Welsh collective’s third in as many years – and, Bangs alive, it doesn’t stop shouting for a second. Even if the shouting is a little subdued compared to what came before.
There’s certainly no shortage of ideas. (The shortfall comes in the editing, but Los Campesinos! clearly see this as a plus.) “She turned her back on the church and put her faith in me,” Who Fell Asleep In brags provocatively, slightly sea-sick, before continuing as a bumpy love song (almost) worthy of Riot Grrrl talisman Comet Gain. “Can we all please just calm the f*** down?” they scream on This Is a Flag. There Is No Wind, before immediately disregarding their own advice.
They’re not as wilfully twee as before – both the references and music expand far beyond their beloved interpretation of NME’s famous C86 tape. Now it seems like Los Campesinos! are limbering up for a shot at, if not the stadiums, then a couple of the smaller arenas. Coda: A Burn Scar in the Shape of the Sooner State is all very serious, and young, and tormented in an Oberst way; opener In Medias Res is an associative poem in the style of late-50s coffee bars set to a spaced-out and tricky electronic accompaniment. There Are Listed Buildings, meanwhile, is a good old-fashioned romp in the style of Slanted and Enchanted.
More serious but still jittery, and not without detritus, this is the album that will decide the longevity of Los Campesinos!. --Everett True
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