Scrappy and sweaty, Los Campesinos!’s debut album ‘Hold On Now, Youngster…’ was a gluey, rough-edged scrapbook of a band with equal penchant for both sneering social commentary and niche punctuation use. It wasn’t until four years later, though, that the Welsh-but-not-actually-from-Wales rabble proved exactly what they could spin out of their smart-arsery.
‘Romance Is Boring’, the band’s second full-length (don’t mention ‘We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed’, okay – it still doesn’t count), found Los Campesinos! tightening the rusty screws of that debut. Every element perfected – if not polished – it remains the perfect introduction to their idiosyncratic take on the indie-pop template.
Bounding along like a dog on the trail of a string of sausages, ‘Romance Is Boring’ is as breathless as they come. Top of the list of panting persons, though, is surely frontman Gareth Campesinos!, who leads the charge with his thousand-word-a-minute, feet-on-the-ground lyricism. “Just let me be the one that keeps track of the moles on your back,” he pleads on ‘I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know’ - find us another chorus that combines such physical intimacy with the pragmatism of keeping an eye on potentially cancerous skin growths and we’ll buy you a pint.
Throughout it all, though, there’s a sense of exuberance and relief – of casting off the shitty side of day-to-day drama with a good old-fashioned piss-up and a dance. The tongue-twisting ‘A Heat Rash in the Shape of the Show Me State; or, Letters from Me to Charlotte’ finds that indie carnival reach its peak, a blast of horns framing Los Camp! at their most party-starting.
‘The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future’
“Dig beneath the bounce, and there’s a darkness to every note of ‘Romance Is Boring’.”
It’s not all a pleasant trip down the sunny sands of Barry Island though. Noise plays a part throughout, most notably on ‘Plan A’’s cacophony of b-movie screeches and its steady segue into the clattering interlude of ‘200-102’. Dig beneath the bounce, and there’s a darkness to every note of ‘Romance Is Boring’ – it’s little surprise to hear Gareth himself described the record as “the death and decay of the human body, sex, lost love, mental breakdown, football and, ultimately, that there probably isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel.” Cheery stuff, mate.
‘The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future’ - the record’s breathtaking centrepiece - remains ‘Romance Is Boring’’s sucker punch. Pairing a dark, spoken word tale with an explosive, ironically life-affirming chorus, it’s the perfect encapsulation of the bleakness and beauty Los Campesinos! are masters of stirring together.
2016 marks the tenth anniversary of Los Campesinos! – a decade since that fuzzy maelstrom of a debut album. As they continue to innovate (and hop-skip their way towards that sixth record), ‘Romance Is Boring’ stands tall to this day as the turning point for a band who remain one of the scene’s most innovative, individual and downright essential listens.
Taken from the July 2016 issue of DIY, out now. Subscribe below.