Plumbiferous Media

Romance is Boring – Los Campesinos!

Jan 31st 2010
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RomanceLos Campesinos!
Romance is Boring
Score: 77

The ever-eclectic Campesinos! (known collectively as Los Campesinos!) released their newest album this past Tuesday, following their 2009 semi-hiatus and the dual-release year of 2008. Romance Is Boring is a collection of 15 tracks, short enough that they fit well under an hour of playtime. And while Los Campesinos! by no means needed that many tracks, Romance Is Boring does effectively showcase the band’s often, though not entirely, positive level of development since its last production.

At this point, it’s no surprise that Romance Is Boring‘s vocals consist more of yelling melodies loudly than singing. In fact, it’s part of what we’ve come to expect from Los Campesinos!, and now that singer Gareth Campesinos! has fully embraced that his vocal calling is more in the punk realm than indie, he’s given Los Campesinos! a welcome boost of energy with his impassioned shouts. Unfortunately, his female counterpart Aleksandra Campesinos! (who shares his tendency towards off-tune tangents during actual singing) hasn’t quite followed his example, leading to some rather awkward duets. When it works, it works well (usually when they’re both yelling), and then there’s “Plan A.” When both vocalists are at their best (or during one of Gareth’s solos), the vocals are perfectly suited to the music. When they’re not, at least it’s amusing.

From the first line of Romance Is Boring (“But let’s talk about you for a minute / With the vomit in your gullet / From a half bottle of vodka we’d stolen from the Optic”), it’s obvious that the album’s going to be infused with the same alternately depressed and ecstatic sarcastic humor of which Los Campesinos! is so fond – and Romance Is Boring certainly doesn’t disappoint. Filled with the sort of quasi-romance song that begins with “I think we need more post-coital / And less post-rock,” the album can’t help being occasionally awkward, but always interesting and often hilarious. Though there are a few great sections and verses (“In Media Res'” second verse, beginning “I’m leaving my body to science / Not medical but physics” is probably the best), Romance Is Boring thrives mostly on witty lines – “So fucking on/And so fucking forth/We’ve got your back/Whatever that’s worth” from “We’ve Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)” and “A lush in denial / Only rather coquettish” from “I Just Sighed” among them.

For the most part, the instrumentals provide a perfect accompaniment to the yelps, screams, and occasional bouts of melody that spurt from the mouths of Gareth and Aleksandra. Between very interesting bass lines and discords that grow and dissolve around otherwise well-maintained, cheery lines, the music is well grounded and quite strong. Transitions where Los Campesinos! flirt with post-rock stylings, toyings with stereo that somehow don’t quite sound obnoxious, and perfectly executed glissandos, the instrumentalists are often at the top of their game.

Unfortunately, ‘often’ and ‘all the time’ are not synonymous. There’s certainly a reason that most albums have somewhere around 10 tracks, and it may have to do with the fact that there’s a good chunk of the album (from track 8 to 13) that is, for the most part, either repetitive, way too conformative to the rest of the album, or simply not all that good. So even though Los Campesinos! more than once sound better than they ever have in the past, Romance Is Boring is not an amazing album.

Though Romance Is Boring doesn’t quite match up to Los Campesinos’s 2008 album We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed (one of our 2008 top albums), it’s a step forward for Los Campesinos! in a number of important ways – vocally as well as instrumentally. At the same time, however, among the fifteen tracks are both very successful examples of Los Campesinos! sound and a number of tracks that really can’t be described as anything but filler. Nevertheless, at its core Romance Is Boring is largely entertaining and a good fourth album for Los Campesinos!.

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