Los Campesinos! have come a long way from the twee innocence and youthful enthusiasm of their 2008 debut ‘Hold On Now, Youngster…’ Each album since has become increasingly dark, culminating in 2011’s ‘Hello Sadness’. This was marked by a stripped-back sound of bleak guitars and even bleaker violins, alongside particularly tender lyrics, based on frontman Gareth Paisey’s break-up with Slow Club singer/guitarist Rebecca Taylor. Two years later and after the loss of two band members, LC! are back with a new album, ‘No Blues’.
Despite seeming to have a more optimistic title than its predecessor, the album deceptively takes its name from a line in As Lucerne/The Low, “There is no blues that can sound quite as heartfelt as mine”. The song, although appearing past the half-way point, thematically summarises the album which, as with ‘Hello Sadness’, centres around the singer’s recent break-up. In album opener For Flotsam it’s clear that the Campesinos! leader is still mulling over his failed relationship: “She says ‘If you’re unhappy, then you gotta find the cure.’ I prescribe me one more beer, beyond that I am unsure.”
Unsurprisingly, the entire album is full of characteristically Los Campesinos! lyrics. A listener familiar with the band will instantly recognise the usual dry wit and one-liners which are peppered through their work. However the lyrics of ‘No Blues’ are considerably more sinister than those of previous albums. In Selling Rope (Swan Dive Into Estuary) Paisey ponders his suicide, while in A Portrait Of The Trequartista As A Young Man he imagines ripping out a man’s voice box to play as a musical instrument. Musically though, ‘No Blues’ is a blend of both the melancholic strings of ‘Hello Sadness’ and the more upbeat indie-pop of the Los Campesinos! of old. Glue Me perhaps embodies the album’s message more than any other song, featuring a background of sombre violins over a chorus of “I’ll be gloomy ‘til they glue me in the arms of she who loves me”. Then the morbid What Death Leaves Behind, “If you’re the casket door that’s being slammed upon me, I’ll be a plague cross painted on your naked body”, nevertheless sees Los Camp! dust off their keyboards after having placed them somewhat in the background for their last album.
One of the highlights of the album comes from current single Avocado Baby. An intro of wistfully looping guitars gives way to rolling drums. Vocals pour out of Paisey’s mouth, matching the stream-of-consciousness feel of his lyrics, “I feel like I’m the host of a terrible game-show and the guests on today’s quiz are celebrities”. When the chorus arrives Los Camp! prove they’ve lost none of their ability to make great dancefloor music. As Paisey screams one of the most tongue-in-cheek lines he’s ever written, “A heart of stone, rind so tough it’s crazy; that’s why they call me the avocado, baby!”, they show that they’re still not taking themselves too seriously, a trap the indie scene has seen so many of its icons fall in to.
Heartfelt and sincere, while at the same time showcasing their talent for making toe-tappingly catchy pop, Los Campesinos! have created a brilliant album in ‘No Blues’. It combines the two contrasting styles, which have defined their back catalogue, into one record results in their best album to date. With this being their fifth release in a little over six years, Team Campesinos! prove themselves to be one of the most overlooked British bands of the indie invasion.
By Rupert Harrington