Los Campesinos! return with matured sound, lyrics
December 2, 2011
Los Campesinos! return with another album full of dashed hopes and heartbreak set over poppy choruses and filled with enough angst to make a high school theatre kid blush. This would normally be a reason to avoid an album, but there’s something almost painfully sincere about the entirety of “Hello Sadness” that it begs to be listened to.
Brutal honesty is the name of the game, as it always has been with Los Campesinos! and that makes for a truly interesting album, even if every song doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Los Campesinos! have seen quite a few shake-ups to their ranks over the last couple of years, but currently rest at a robust seven members. The departure of Harriet Campesinos! (yes, they all perform under stage names) does take a toll on this album, as her fiddle playing is sadly missed. Luckily, it’s more than made up for in the maturation of the remaining Campesinos! as musicians.
“Hello Sadness” may not contain anything quite as manic and chaotic as the superb “You! Me! Dancing!” or “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives,” but what it lacks in spontaneity, it more than makes up for with well-thought out lyrics, raw emotion and a tight control of a whole mess of instruments and vocalists. Los Campesinos! may have finally learned when to reign it in and when to let it all loose.
Songwriter Gareth Campesinos! has an uncanny knack for writing songs that are both intensely personal and yet, strangely vague; just enough where those listening will start filling in the gaps with their own life experiences.
The album opens with the insanely catchy “By Your Hand” which weaves a story all about that person who you love but just know is going to be the death of you. The song skips from crazy melodrama as Gareth moans, “You’ll sing me lullabies in form of your cat calls,” to almost rabid adoration as the entirety of the band chants the chorus, “By your hand is the only end I fore- see. I have been dreaming you’ve been dreaming about me.” It’s infectious, really.
Los Campesinos! specialize in nigh-non-sensical storytelling coupled with toe-tapping beats, and ear-worm inducing melodies.
While “Hello Sadness” is a bit toned down compared to their other albums, the more laid back songs stay catchy with tight rhythms and eerie, emotionally charged lyrics. Some of Gareth’s lyrics come off a bit like if that weird kid who sketched off-putting stuff in his notebook during class could actually write and had the guts to get up and wail his guts out in front of a crowd.
“Hello Sadness” rewards multiple listenings. It’s not necessarily dense music, but the blend of styles leaves a lot to discover for those willing to invest some time into the album. While some tracks like “By Your Hand” and “Songs About Your Girlfriend” are little bundles of poppy controlled chaos, the more methodical tracks like “Every Defeat A Divorce (Three Lions)” and “Hate For The Island” mix bits of folk with fuzzed out ambience and an edge of hard rock sensibilities.
By far the most dynamic song on the album is “Baby I Got The Death Rattle” which features some fantastic backing vocals behind a hypnotic chorus of “And you, you are an angel. That’s why you pray. And I am an ass, and that’s why I bray.” The song completely shifts gears after the second chorus from an emo infused story about taking control of one’s own destiny to a hip-swinging good time backed by noodling guitar riffs, catchy keys and an outro that begs to be a huge chant from the crowd at live gigs.
“Hello Sadness” isn’t a perfect album. Even with the variety in songs, there is sort of a malaise over the whole affair. Some of the songs really lack the energy that make Los Campesinos! who they are. While the intimate nature of a lot of “Hello Sadness” can sometimes make it feel like that friend who has to spill every detail of his late night rendezvous, there’s a certain bravery to be admired in the honesty of the lyrics that make it hard not to appreciate this album. Fans of the band will have already devoured this album, for those new to Los Campesinos! it’s not a bad place to start.
Chris Rohling is a journalism major with a passion for storytelling in almost every medium.