Los Campesinos! – Romance Is Boring

Los Campesinos are among the most divisive of bands. A bunch of shouty students, spouting immature teen angst to some, one of the most innovative British bands around for others. Their latest Romance is Boring is a pretty good case for the latter’s cause.

Sure, there’s still some immature angst, but the music is maturing nicely and across the 15 tracks, there’s a lot going on, sweeping epics in places all laced with trumpets, violins, discordant song construction and above all stories.

They are also an interesting band, which makes interesting music with interesting tales to tell. In the case of Romance is Boring the focus of these tales is on, “the death and decay of the human body, lost love, mental breakdown, and football,” according to the band.

In comparison with the previous two albums its more of the same in terms of style, a heady mix of Chumbawamba jumbled up with their North American label mates Broken Social Scene, The New Pornographers and 1980s indie veterans The Cardiacs.  But in terms of production this is a far punchier, slicker offering.

Among the most immediately likeable songs on the first half of the album are the first two singles, the anthemic ‘Romance Is Boring’ and ‘There Are Listed Buildings’, where the trumpets interweave perfectly with smart, pop friendly guitar hooks.

Opener ‘In Medias Res’ is far less accessible, but as with Los Campesinos’s idea of romance a whole album of similar catchy trumpet tracks would be, well, boring. Another that’s less accessible is “The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future”. But give it time; its story of mental breakdown is powerful stuff.

Downpoints are few. The poor lyrics on ‘Straight in at101’ are among them “I think we need more post-coital and less post rock. Feels like the build up takes forever, and you never get me off.” Dear, oh, dear. Another is the band’s insistence  on replacing their surnames with Campesinos; the surname switching equivalent of referring to yourself in the third person.

Also, the album does dip a bit in the middle with tracks such as the sombre ‘Who Fell Asleep In’ and ‘I Warned You: Do Not Make An Enemy Of Me’.

The album really picks up at the end though, with a run of  tracks including ‘The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future’ and our choice of standout track,  ‘A Heat Rash in the Shape of the Show Me State; or, Letters from Me to Charlotte’.

‘I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know’ and  ‘This Is a Flag. There Is No Wind,’ are other later tracks that are among the catchiest and smartest on the album.

Romance is Boring may be their third album (technically speaking their last was an extended EP) in two years but by the looks of it they are far from flagging.

The future is pretty unknown though for Los Campesinos. This is the last album to feature singer and keyboardist Aleks, who has gone back to studying and been replaced with lead singer Gareth’s sister Kim.

Time will tell as to what effect this has an effect on their output. The dynamic between Aleks’s pretty, clever girl next-door persona to lead singer Gareth’s village idiot demeanour was a key part of the band’s charm.

8/10

by Joe Lepper,  Jan 2010

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