There’s a certain type of person that Wales’ premier self-effacing indie gang Los Campesinos! have carved out a voice for since first breaking through over a decade ago. Not for them are #newyearnewme, the mannequin challenge, ‘banuary’, ‘movember’ or ‘nu-ly’ (a kind of mid-year life overhaul that hasn’t been invented yet, but give it a couple of years, trust us). They’re the ones who approach life with a wry smile and consolatory pint down the local, knowing in the back of their minds – as singer Gareth Campesinos! has regularly reminded us for the band’s duration – that they and everyone they love will eventually die.
If that all sounds unbearably bleak, then fear not – the band’s other trick has always been to cloak said miserabilia in the kind of fidgety hooks made if not for radio, then at least for pumping very loudly from your bedroom speakers in cathartic fashion. And if sixth LP ‘Sick Scenes’ finds LC! in a notably different place to the kids that fired out ‘You! Me Dancing!’ back in the day, then their familiar framework of finding humour in despair is one that translates well to the various trials of growing up.
“It’s not right to call this old age, but this certainly ain’t youth no more / It certainly ain’t youth,” sings Gareth on closing track ‘Hung Empty’ – a musing on feeling separate from the “students spilling out of the bus stop” and the blokes with so many notches on their bedposts, their frames are a pile of splinters. A quick glance even through ‘Sick Scenes” titles is like a deadpan symptom list of approaching middle age: ‘For Whom The Belly Tolls’, ‘5 Flucloxacillin’, ‘Here’s To The Fourth Time!’ “And all we’ve got’s the need to breed before we rot,” goes the latter, summing up the familiar to and fro of a relationship in the most painfully factual of fashions.
Lead single ‘I Broke Up In Amarante’ finds our (anti?)hero self-medicating with booze against a backdrop of personal turmoil and the Euro 2016 tournament (truly the most LC! of scenes), while the cheerily titled ‘A Slow, Slow Death’ is the record’s contemplative, meditative centrepiece – musically recalling the undulating catharsis of career highlight ‘A Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future’.
“The past couple of years have been extremely frustrating and I think we’ve been forced into questioning whether we want to do this anymore or why we’re still here,” guitarist and chief songwriter Tom told DIY earlier this year. And while ‘Sick Scenes’ is a record that questions its authors places in the world in tandem, it’s also one that shows that, for as long as they’re here, Los Campesinos! will always be able to express a certain character type better than most.