Los Campesinos! is one of those bands that has jumped on the exclamation point title bandwagon, pun intended — not that this is necessarily a bad thing. I was tuned into ‘The Verge’ on my Sirius/XM dial when I first heard them in December.
Honestly, I was expecting something along the lines of the same typical gimmicky Indie pop with that standard “doomp–doomp–doomp–doomp” driving bass drum line that every ‘cutting edge’ band has had in the last few years. I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case with this (insert name here) exclamation point heptad.
From Cardiff, England, Los Campesinos! Is a seven-piece indie power-pop/alternative/punk band. “We are Beautiful, We are Doomed” is their second ‘full-length’ album, which was released November 25 on Wichita/Arts and Crafts records, only eight months after their full-length debut. The band has a variety of influences mostly stemming from obscure contemporary and 90’s Indie rock. The songs are messy in a good way, supercharged, youthful and anthemic. I would personally describe the sound as a mixture of Tilly and the Wall, Pavement, Bloc Party, The Unicorns, and Friendly Fires. Uprightly, it sounds very, very British.
The album starts strong with “Ways to Make It Through the Wall,” a song about mortality and love. This theme of chaotic youthful angst carries through the remainder of the album. We are Beautiful, We are Doomed has a very poppy feel with a galvanic, energetic tempo. The synth meshes with the guitars and violin perfectly. Something I haven’t heard done well in a while is the peppering of glockenspiel undertones in certain parts of a song. The record sounds very full, and the creative combination of instruments keeps you interested. The use of stereo imaging is also well executed in this album, the panning of tracks sounds good on speakers, as well as headphones. This is definitely not your standard guitar and bass rock.
The album was recorded in an eleven-day session. This is pretty quick, considering the tightness, and the clarity of the content. This is partially thanks to John Goodmanson, a well respected recording engineer and Indie producer. Goodmanson is credited with working with Pavement, Blonde Redhead, Bikini Kill, Harvey Danger, Nada Surf, and Wu-Tang Clan just to name a few.
Many consider vocals and lyrics to be of upmost importance. Los Campesinos! delivers in this department. They also include a couple of short interludes between songs without lyrics, which is nice for transitions. The lyrics are very well-thought-out and poetic.
Contributing to the albums music and lyrics are some musical heavyweights including Xiu Xiu, Grandaddy, Tender Forever, Menomena, Parenthetical Girls, and Paul Heaton. The vocals are poetic, and are universally, and immediately identifiable. These vocals are also very clean and understandable, which is a quality I like. The layering of male and female vocals really drives the messages of these songs home. The first time I listened to the album entirely, I felt uplifted, sad, frantic, calm, and smart all at the same time. I love it when a recording can capture, and evoke these feelings in just over thirty minutes.
Considering the album is only a tick over thirty-two minutes, it is fairly short for a “full-length” album. Some critics say that it would have been better released as an EP. With all due respect, I see what the critics mean, but, why complain about formalities?
One thing I can complain about is that most of the music is seemingly over-exaggerated at parts. This is more apparent after about six or seven listens to the album in its entirety. The lyrics are well done, but can be a bit over-dramatic at parts and the music can get a bit repetitive after a while. I am not, however sick of the album in the least.
I recommend checking out Los Campesinos! at myspace.com/loscampesinos. You can listen to two of the songs from this album, and four others from previous releases. We are Beautiful, We are Doomed is available for download on iTunes.