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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