Search The Line of Best Fit
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"Romance Is Boring"

Los Campesinos! – Romance Is Boring
29 January 2010, 07:47 Written by Simon Tyers
"But let's talk about you for a minute..."Track three of Romance Is Boring, the title track, and it should come as a shock to anyone who's followed Los Campesinos!' journey from Myspace cult to Arts & Crafts plunderers to tweexcore overgrounders to distorto-indie mope-pop. The shock is, it's a compact big modern indie song with clean chord semi-riffage, a forceful vocal and a big chorus to shout along to while drunk. Were it not so constantly prone to intentionally tripping over its own musical feet, it'd almost be ready to be released by a group of major label guitar-toting ruffledly pretty boys.Don't, before we go any further, get this confused with any notion of Romance Is Boring being the Cardiff-based septet's stab at the populist mainstream. In fact, you could easily argue that their career arc to this point is heading in the opposite direction, tied in inexorably with where its creators' heads are at at this stage of their development. In retrospect you can characterise Hold On Now, Youngster... as a typically just-come-out-of-education album, excitably rushing to show the world at large what it can now do by way of putting the world to rights, bearing strongly held beliefs about small things, a wayward emotional compass, a well thumbed collection of music blog Bookmarks and a certainly about the ongoing life lesson that everything looks better from the floor of the indie disco. By We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed they were awkward enough to firstly declare that a ten track, 32 minute record wasn't actually an album and then, in a position that seems clearer after listening to what they did next, to cloak that joie de vivre in self-lacerating, frustrated kicking against a world they suddenly feel if not lost in then at least burdened down by. All that came on the backdrop of now being a touring band, singer/lyricist/glockenspiel beater Gareth once claiming that every anecdote contained therein had actually happened to him.The pressure of fending for one's self has finally kicking in on Romance Is Boring. In the press release Gareth described the lyrical content as "the death and decay of the human body, sex, lost love, mental breakdown, football and, ultimately, that there probably isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel". Twee popsters, there. Big things for a band who earned their fervent following partly through songs about mixtapes and ATP, but also the sort of things that come about from where they are in life.The spectre of the 'quarter life crisis', the ability or otherwise to cope with the move from adolescence to having to face up to yourself, looms large. Most obviously, the previously freely issued 'The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future' journeys through eating disorders, escapist fantasy versus grim reality and the female subject's thoughts of ultimate morbidity to the accompaniment of a slow burning churn. This is the kind of skyscraping storyboarding that would make other bands' careers but here is merely track 13. Opener 'In Medias Res', sharing its title with a phrase denoting the narrative technique where the story begins somewhere other than the beginning of the narrative, features backing vocals by Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart, no doubt recognising some of the menacing darkness and shifting tones inherent here. Lyrically it can't make its mind up about love and the futility of such, suggesting "leaving my body to science, not medical but physics" as it crashes through a dense mid-section leavened by a brass section, before Gareth sees it out by reaching the end of his neurotic charge, sounding utterly exhausted by defeat:"If you were given the option of dying painlessly in peace at 45 But with a lover at your side After a full and happy life... Is this something would interest you?"Enough pop-psychology, let's talk about the music. When their demos started circulating, well before they were filed under 'twee' by those who noted only the glockenspiel and the love of badges and fanzines, the standard comparisons were to Pavement and Broken Social Scene. It's only really here that those influences are allowed to openly percolate, in the layered multi-handed intensity and scrappy pumped up dual guitar swirls. 'In Medias Res' shifts and adds depth as it progresses before fading the layers as gradually away as they had arrived. 'We've Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)' seems to run several admirable melodies over each other and veers between awkward states of serenity and the odd male gang shout borrowed straight from their friends Dananananaykroyd. 'Plan A' crashes about with everything distorted and criss-crossing with musical ADHD, bearing a long and awkward chorus with no resolvement before coming to rest around the two-minute mark, almost as if it thinks it's a gang-show No Age. There's even a virtual ballad, 'Who Fell Asleep In', rhythm swaying and violin swooping around melodramatically as Gareth outlines personal pain and specific guilt around the church and, perhaps more specifically, graveyard. As with 'In Medias Res', a background guest, Parenthetical Girls' Zac Pennington, seems to have been picked for this track because it sounds like his own work through a Los Campesinos! filter.Not to suggest that the old stereotypical LC! way of doing things has been entirely abandoned, just coarsed up and left to fend for its feral self. First single 'There Are Listed Buildings' courses in on ba-bas not too far from Death Cab For Cutie's 'The Sound Of Settling' before straddling Pavement looseness/loucheness and a violin-led charge that almost reaches Cursive levels with scraps of Girls along the way, playing against the twentysomething relationship angst with scenes of infatuation, not so much with the already oft-quoted "I remember being naked to my waist, though not in which direction", but more with "we are two atheists in lust, we have to make our own love". It immediately undercuts that with 'Romance Is Boring', which once you've got past how Aleks (in her last recording with the band) suddenly sounds like Brian Molko emerges as the end of that state of infatuation, throwing the linear verse-chorus-verse construction off kilter with dirty synth noises. It's a trick they go on to repeat with 'This Is A Flag. There Is No Wind', featuring a big chorus that pretends it isn't one, followed the best deliciously crash-bang instrumental pile-on since 'The  International Tweexcore Underground'. Not unsurprisingly, it portrays a love going sour. 'I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed. Just So You Know' - yeah, the titles are going to be hard work on the neutral convincing front - sounds like the exact midpoint between the first album and its follow-up 'record' given John Goodmanson's production work from this album, a dynamically layered literally diary entry ("I am writing this at 7.10am on the hard dry tarmac of a vacant forecourt") chasing an uninterested infatuation with "a lifetime of dedications that you never desired" across several tempos. And let's face it, 'Straight In At 101''s "I think we need more post-coital and less post-rock/Feels like the build up takes forever but you never get me off" might one day be recognised as the ultimate, almost self-parodic, LC! lyric, and thus one you'll see quoted from here to Armageddon on Tumblr.Perhaps not unreasonably given the suggested weight of Romance Is Boring's contents, there should be a caveat added. Unlike Hold On Now, Youngster..., it will require a few listens before everything clicks. It's very deliberately a fully planned and sequenced album, see-sawing around the emotions. A couple of later tracks could have been dropped to make it a trim forty minutes through the emotional wringer, in truth, but if the intention was to edge away from the stock image of glock-wielding shouty full-frontal charges, it's worked a treat.Admittedly if you thought the lyrics were too self-regarding and mopey before, you'll now entirely give up hope, but it's an advert for giving bands time to realise what they can do musically, dramatic and adaptable to the roughest of conditions. An album of songs like 'The Sea Is A Good Place...' would have been a weight carried too far, but an album of songs like 'There Are Listed Buildings' might, at the third time of asking, tried the patience. Instead they've connected their natural instincts to founding a fascinatingly personal boundary pushing middle ground, laid out against a lyrical style that opts for openness, perhaps too honest, philosophically heavy where once was route to adoration, veering from raw emotion to blissed out longing and praying. They've had their fun; now it's time to focus and learn how to grow.RECOMMENDED

Buy the album on Amazon | [itunes link="" title="Los_Campesinos" text="iTunes"]

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