Growing up is rubbish, isn’t it? You finish school with no idea of the adult world and the belief that anything is possible. You think your dreams could come true, though you’ve no idea how you’re going to make it happen, but hey, you’re young and responsibility doesn’t exist for you. Then, capitalism bites and you have to start paying your way and guess what, before you know it you’ve got an office job for a multi-national corporation and your dreams get relegated to weekends. Then, you get a house and kids and your weekends are all about wallpapering and taking your offspring to jelly and ice cream laden parties where all the other parents look at tired and world-weary as you. Well, something resembling that at least…
So where do your dreams go? If you never actually sold your soul to rock n’ roll, then the time is ripe for a bit of vicarious living. Rock stars are the eternal children, the Peter Pans who never grew up and in the case of Los Campesinos!’ début album, Hold On Now, Youngster…, they were living the dream just for you. HONY… was a beautifully giddy collection of tracks, hastily thrown together and recorded by a group of people who clearly couldn’t believe they were being allowed to make an album and were worried they were going to be thrown out of the studio at any minute. Sure, it was a little rough around the edges, but it was so full of charm it won them an army of fans, something which carried on with follow-up We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed.
So, surely now the Welsh septet are feeling the harsh realities of life? Apparently there’s some sort of recession on, everyone’s finding it tough and Los Campesinos! themselves are a handful of years older. Does this mean they’ve grown up? The answer is simple: yes and no.
Luckily, you get the best of both worlds, because while Romance Is Boring still contains the youthful exuberance that set LC! apart from their peers, the lyrics show an acceptance that actions actually have consequences and they’re coupled with a more mature, even polished, sound.
Don’t worry, they haven’t turned into Coldplay. In fact, far from it. But the best example of a more grown-up song from LC! is probably the album opener, In Media Res. It’s unmistakeably Los Campesinos!, but rather than celebrating irresponsible behaviour, it’s about the negative effects of over-indulgence and not only that, there are sweeping strings to really lift it to the next level. It’s less self-consciously quirky and though not necessarily the most enjoyable song they’ve ever written, it’s certainly the best-crafted and gives a good indication of what they’re capable of achieving.
That’s the “yes” covered, now for the “no”. Los Campesinos! are known for rushing through songs at breakneck speed, and having both a male and female vocalist certainly adds to the playground call and response nature of their songs. A marked maturity pervades but they certainly haven’t forgotten where they came from, and those fantastically perky moments remain. Straight In At 101 is the frustrated cousin of first album single You! Me! Dancing! and is incredibly lyrically sharp with its first-person account of awkward teenage fumbling that never quite goes to plan. It also contains the best opening line you’ll have heard for a while, “I think we need more post-coital and less post-rock”.
Los Campesinos! aren’t afraid of experimentation either, and mix discordance, emo riffs, glockenspiels and crashing cymbals to great effect. The chanted chorus on the title track is rousing and listening to the bleeps and almost prog-like timing of We’ve Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)(sample lyric: “I’ve learnt more from toilet walls than I’ve learnt from these words of yours”) is like listening to a band shedding their skin and growing into themselves.
Occasionally, the well of inspiration runs a little dry, but that’s probably to be expected when you record three albums is two years. Plan A is, to these ears at least, little more than noise, and the album does tend to peter out with little of particular note - the stellar This Is A Flag. There Is No Wind excepted. Mind you, you’d be a fool not to fall for a song that’s opening line is an impassioned chant of “Can’t we all please just calm the fuck down?!”.
Romance Is Boring is fun, knowing, astute, energetic and packed with vignettes of youth and love lost. Whereas Hold On Now, Youngster… was, perhaps in retrospect, a little too naïve with any slower portions feeling as if they were there just for a breather rather than to add to the overall ambience,Romance Is Boring is a proper album from a band who have grown and know what they’re doing. Listen to it while selecting ceiling paint in your local hardware store, or while driving your middle child to piano practice or maybe, just maybe, listen to it while doing whatever the hell you want to do.