If I was to write a track by track of this 10 year old album I would be lying. It’s impossible for me to remember what my thinking was behind each song. A lot of time has passed and I’d like to think I’ve changed reasonably as a person.
However, what I can do is listen to the album on this train to London ahead of our SOLD OUT double header at Islington Assembly Hall, and type notes as I go. It’s also practice for the gigs in a way, which is good and necessary.
At the time of ’Romance Is Boring’’s release I described it as being about “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”. I’d say that holds true, and that it’s also a terrible indictment of how my songwriting has barely changed in a decade.
In Medias Res
When I’m writing I always ask Tom what track he foresees being the first on the album, as I like for the opening lyric to set the agenda, and fair to say it does here.
I frequently forget that we somehow managed to get Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart to do guest Vox on this record, and every time I remember I feel chuffed all over again, he’s a real hero of mine. That squeal coming out of the breakdown is his too, no idea what instrument he used to make it.
First example of horns on a Los Camp! record there I think, and they’re every bit as triumphant as horns always should be. Very profound ending, I’m sure you’ll agree…
There Are Listed Buildings
Music video for this isn’t very good. I think I only ever watched it once. Those “bah”s are ripped right from ‘The Sound Of Settling’ by Death Cab For Cutie. Mention of crabs and seagulls, two favourite creatures of mine. When the album leaked the files tagged this track as ‘These Are Listed Buildings’ so I could tell which last.fm scrobblers had downloaded the ILLEGAL LEAK.
“I remember being naked to my waist though not in which direction” is a good lyric, whereas “we are but two atheists in lust” is quite bad. But one of the first LC! Tattoos I ever remember seeing was a girl with that lyric tattooed, so I trust her judgement more than I trust mine.
Romance Is Boring
First of a few The Beautiful South references in this one, the “phallic cake” line, stolen from ‘I Love You (But You’re Boring)’. Not a rip-off (as far as I can remember) but the bridge lyrics are inspired by B S Johnson’s ‘Trawl’, my favourite novel at the time. Tom’s noise guitar is sick on this.
We’ve Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)
This one’s fun. First couple of verses are scenes painted from taxi journeys taken around White Plains in New York, where we decamped between the two legs of recording the album.
Doe eyes is back! These chorus bits are fun, “your hero” in this case being Yoni Wolf who we got to hang out with at a couple of shows at this time and were completely in awe of. The “cheat notes” lyric is quite saucy isn’t it?
I like this song, and “We’ve got your back (whatever that’s worth)” would come to be a bit of a mantra for us. It feels like our fans and ourselves look out for each other, and that’s something I appreciate more than ever. Likewise, “cementing old friends, dismissing old foes”, I think by now we felt we’d made all the fans we were ever gonna, and wanted to make records for them, rather than reaching for any more success. A terrible idea.
Really stupid song. The title’s meant to be in brackets but you have to really nag to get streaming platforms to allow you to include “unnecessary punctuation” in track titles. Shame they let us get away with the stupid bandname punctuation though.
This song is literally about moving to Malta, claiming citizenship and becoming an international football superstar there. I was listening to a lot of Blood Brothers at the time.
Vocals are too low in the mix on this one, imo.
Straight In At 101
Top 10 Los Camp! song in my opinion, and should have been a single. Honestly the experience of dashing to the bathroom in the middle of the night, in the house of someone you’ve just met, with the fear of bumping into one of their housemates is even more anxiety inducing now than it was then.
Title is a reference to the Beautiful South’s ‘Straight In At 37’. This is really fun to play live. The outro is a poor imitation of ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’. Or is it actually much better? Not for me to say.
Who Fell Asleep In
There’s a little bit too much nagging at religion in this album for my liking. I was very judgemental back then but now I appreciate whatever gets you through the day is a good thing. I was working at a cemetery at the time, general gardening, and this song is set there. One thing that was weird was families would visit graves once, maybe twice a year. They’d bring a load of tinsel, maybe a plastic poinsettia at Christmas every year, and then not visit again for six months, by which point they’d return to see the tired remains of the decorations that we weren’t allowed to remove.
Zac Pennington on chorus BVs there. Another favourite musician of mine, what a line-up! Love the brass drop in the second verse there.
I Warned You: Do Not Make An Enemy Of Me
Worst song on the record by a mile, and maybe just a bad song. Actually, it’s three possibly good songs but jammed together. Great use of güiro on the middle 8. Just so you don’t have to google it, that’s the percussion instrument that’s like a wooden fish.
“If this changed your life, did you have one before?” - humble as ever.
The football team alluded to in the second verse there is Atletico Nacional. I used to enjoy picking up exciting football shirts when we toured, but then one time we were in Japan and I bought a Boca Juniors shirt and realised how much money I was wasting and that I was an idiot.
This song is written from the perspective of Brian Clough, after his parting with Peter Taylor.
I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know
This is a fucking tune. Top 5 Los Camp! songs.
“The Universe replied…”, I imagine this being the same Universe that Phil Elverum spoke to in Microphones songs. Lots to unpack in here, lots of lyrics, very quick. Those “oh ohhhhh”s on the pre-choruses are lifted from ‘Jenny’ by Stellastarr*, what an album that was.
A Heat Rash in the Shape of the Show Me State; or, Letters from Me To Charlotte
What a stupid bloody title.
This song is about the sort of friendships that are ruined because one of the friends starts fancying the other and it’s not reciprocated. Really proud that this song includes the word “erection”, takes a really brave songwriter to run with that imho, what a legend. This song’s a bit faster than it should be I reckon. The “though said with hand in pocket…” line is a rewriting of a bit from ‘Flag Day’ by the Housemartins and then I think the outro is my first recorded effort at doing a Paul Heaton vocal bit.
Just listening now and it’s even weedier than I remembered, embarrassing.
The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future
This one’s your favourite from the record.
Lots of observations from touring the more… conservative, areas of the United States mixed with a particularly depressive morning at Brighton seafront one day. The chorus was meant to sound like ‘Hard Knock Life’ from Annie. The specific video game referenced in the second verse is Puzzle Bobble.
That line about never kissing a Tory boy: the Conservative party and anyone who votes for them is reprehensible and it is our duty to look out for and protect those of us less fortunate than ourselves and to challenge white nationalism head on wherever we find it.
This Is a Flag. There Is No Wind.
Good football analogy to kick things off there. Funny thing then: I make a snarky joke about a University. Now, ten years on I work a menial job at the very same University as a Student Information Advisor. Born to do it.
The chorus is, essentially, about not being able to get it up.
Coda: A Burn Scar In The Shape Of The Sooner State
This is a very serious song. I like this set of lyrics, they are very… poetic. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is one of two LC! songs to explicitly reference urinating. Seems like there could be more, I’ll think about it and let you know.
’The first time, the last time…’ is taken from a poem by B S Johnson, entitled Good News For Her Mother. The same poem would later be referenced on 2017 Los Campesinos! song ‘Here’s To The Fourth Time!’.
Prolonged feedback there, so that must be the end of the album.
Yep, there it is.
Los Campesinos! play two sold-out shows at Islington Assembly Hall on 14th and 15th February.
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