MUSIC: Album Review: Los Campesinos!, "Romance is Boring"

Written by Trent Gurney on . Posted in Music

The Welsh group Los Campesinos! released their first two pop-tastic albums about eight months apart, both back in 2008, and now, after a year and a half of much anticipation (at least for me), their third record Romance is Boring has finally arrived. But as its first track indicates, if you haven’t heard much from Los Campesinos! you’ll definitely be jumping in “In Medias Res” with Romance is Boring. This album is not as user-friendly or upbeat as their previous two — things are heavier for these campesinos now.

On their debut album Hold on Now, Youngster, you’ll find a track called “You! Me! Dancing!,” which is just as ecstatic as you’d expect a track with three exclamation points to be. In contrast, on Romance is Boring, lead singer and lyricist Gareth tells us just how much it hurts to share your lover with God, to watch a friend waste away from an eating disorder, and to wake up next to your partner even more bored with your love life than you were the day before. Not to mention lamenting over some intense sexual frustration, screaming about self-mutilation, and dedicating an entire verse to the colors of some girl’s bruise. This album is not LC! for beginners, but it is probably their most solid work to date.

I tend to judge an album on the number of lines I wish I had written, and with Romance is Boring I lost count after the fourth track or so. This band’s lyrics are about as intimate as lyrics can get. Gareth recently said in a post on the LC! website: “I put so much personal and biographical stuff into songs that it as good as breaks me.” Nowhere is that more apparent than on this album. He bares it all, whether he’s telling you what went through his head while locking lips with every girl he’s ever kissed or desperately begging, “Please just let me be the one to keep track of the freckles and the moles on your back.” His vulnerability is what makes these lyrics so effective and this collection of songs so ridiculously relatable. Just try listening to one without thinking, “Hey, me too.”

Gareth is also prone to some rather stark imagery, which certainly gets his point across. One particularly disturbing theme on this album is a fascination with what happens to the body after death. Corpses show up in quite a few songs — some are scarred, some are burned, and some are dropped limp from the left wing of an airplane. And these songs are just as emotionally packed as the others, which can make it hard to decide whether you want to cringe or cry.

Yes, it’s packed with some pretty heavy stuff, but Romance is Boring is a beautiful album that gets better with each and every listen. I think I’ve played it a good 20 times in the past week, and I’m nowhere near sick of it yet. Los Campesinos! have one of the most original sounds I’ve ever heard — and it has only gotten better.

There are seven members in the band, each with an instrument in their hands and a very strong set of vocal chords. Thus, things can seem a bit musically crowded at times, but the album has some carefully orchestrated chaos. There are also plenty of quiet moments, which somehow make the chaotic ones seem all the more comfortable — like when Gareth is whispering about feeling more alone than he ever has before, and then suddenly, the violin, the glockenspiel, the drums, the guitar, the bass, the piccolo, and the keyboard are back. And when they’re all screaming obscenities again, we’re reminded just how much we miss Los Campesinos! when they’re away.

Trent Gurney is a music correspondent for Rhombus.

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