Review: Los Campesinos! – Romance is Boring (2010)

In building up to an album’s release, there is a standard procedure following recording and mixing geared towards creating buzz and word-of-mouth to fuel interest. You pick one of the strongest tracks. That one. The one with the bright, uptempo beat that’s slightly more quirky than your previous singles. Got it? Good. Leak it, quotation marks optional over that. Let the song do the talking.

When “The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future” was released for free in September, a good four months in advance of Romance Is Boring, there was no bright moments when the song started, nor as it progressed. The melancholic dread from the downtrodden guitar to Gareth’s sullen vocals wasn’t exactly the Los Campesinos! that charmed countries in the EPs and the 2008 debut Hold On Now, Youngster…(iTunes). Listen to the lyrics; “At 14, her mother died in a routine operation from an allergic reaction to a general anesthetic. Spent the rest of her teens experimenting with prescriptions in a futile attempt to know more than the doctors.” It surely wasn’t the complex jumble of their “second” full length but headed more towards what Noah and the Whale departed to earlier in the year. Now it’s 2010 and that tide has come in with Romance is Boring.

A sole guitar is the first taste, building into an orchestral crescendo as the 7-piece Cardiff Los Campesinos! raise the curtain with “In Media Res.” Cue the gels, let the light wash the stage with warmth and that glockenspiel and things look up. Then halfway through, distortion kicks in as if Tim Burton was pushing the faders. With the third full length, Tom’s ability to concoct mini opuses reached the level sought in We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed (iTunes). Los Campesinos! reached a way to balance their dichotomy, and sustain it for a full album.

“Romance Is Boring”, the title track is the closest to their debut LP, represents the bright side of the spectrum on the album. Cheerful choruses of snide lyricism sandwich sly male-female vocal exchanges in the verses, a trademark that gave Los Campesinos! the charm in the beginning. Although she left to academia, Aleks has distinctly left an impression on “We’ve Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)” with a distinguished, deeper voice in the verses reflective of the vast changes the band undertook in the past two years. Standing out entirely amid the “optimistic” so-to-say Side A, and featuring Gareth’s most memorable lyrical decry is “Straight In At 101”. The dichotic drum machine and guitar elicit those dancing days of Hold On Now… as Harriet’s expansive string arrangements accentuate the simplistic processed beats.

The imposing, darker elements of the indie rock septet rears itself early on with the “Police Story”-recalling “Plan A”, then disappears until the latter end of the album. Such disjointing guitar returns on “I Warned You: Do Not Make an Enemy of Me”, the appearances of which proving to be the best experiments. Meanwhile the introduction to “I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed. Just So You Know” gives the most refreshing thrash of discord the album deserves.

While the lead-up to their third album lies quite contradictory to common practice, it threw their established audience off enough to seed doubts. The end of January came, and left us with the most complex, yet concise Los Campesinos! effort to date.

Los Campesinos!
Official | iTunes

Rating: 8.8/10

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