Review Summary: Cardiff-based indie-pop septet Los Campesinos! produce a terrific debut EP. Revitalising a turgid indie-pop scene and referencing all their heroes, they still manage to have a hell of a lot of fun making for a cheerfull yet complelling listen.5 of 5 thought this review was well written
Wales is not really a place known for its music, in fact, Wales is not really a place known for very much at all. This is something of a shame because if you look hard enough it has a rapidly expanding and vibrant Indie scene, ripe for your attention but not really doing anything to grab it just yet. That was until 2007, when a group of seven Cardiff University graduates took the blogging world by its neck, refining their distinctive brand of exciting, upbeat Indie-pop into this six track EP, Sticking Fingers Into Sockets
. Okay, so they might not be a household name just yet, but with extremely positive critical response across the board and record deals signed with influential labels Arts + Crafts
, 2008 looks to be the year Wales and more specifically Los Campesinos! Make their mark.
What exactly is all this fuss about then? And what separates LC! from every other ‘twee’ Broken Social Scene sound-alike pedalled by Pitchfork and other tastemakers of the indienet? What helps them is how brutally aware of the scene they are, allowing them to step back and avoid its trappings. On ‘It Started With a Mix’, for example, lead singer Gareth Campesinos! stresses over how their band might be perceived as early as their first mix tape, contemplating; “trying to find the perfect match between pretentious and pop, some crappy artwork that took way too long to draw
”. In some ways the band almost backlashes against criticism before they have even received it, as Gareth remarks in another song “It’s sad that you think that we’re all just scenesters, and even if we we are it’s not the scene your thinking of
”. LC! might take influence from all the bands you would expect from listening to them; Pavement
, Architecture in Helsinki
, Wolf Parade
and indeed Broken Social Scene
have all had notable impact, but they don’t sound like any one of them. Instead the band makes reference to the music they love through lyrics and subtle reference, but their own sound is energetic, passionate and tries desperately hard to inspire something innovative within British music.
Like any good debut it’s this thirst for song writing which shines through; each song is crammed with lyrics as they try to express as much as they can within the frameworks of miniature pop songs. On single and standout track You! Me! Dancing!
, for example, words seem to fly off the page at a terrific pace, yet the delivery and craft of expression is rarely short of magnificent. Witty lyricism is one thing, but LC! come with the songs to back it. With seven members behind them at all times it often sounds like an Indie-pop assault, blending violins and glockenspiels into a guitar heavy mix which is truly euphoric. Additionally, the pace never seems to be anything other than top speed; even the initially restrained intro of You! Me! Dancing! is soon ruptured by a memorable guitar hook, before inevitably giving in to an explosion of ecstatic sounds and a gloriously optimistic lead vocal. Completing the collection is ‘Frontwards’, a cover song and tribute to their beloved Pavement, and ‘Clunk-Rewind-Clunk-Play-Clunk’ a 36 second summary of their sound with a predictably frenetic tempo and cheerful tone.
Los Campesinos! might or might not be for you, but there’s no denying the sheer enthusiasm which they’ve injected into this EP. From the endearing off-key boy/girl vocals, through perfectly imperfect instrumentation the band carve out 6 emphatic pop songs. For me, it’s a refreshing take on a scene which was really starting to become frigid, and if they can maintain this energy going into their full length album (set for a February release) then 2008 could be an even bigger step for the recognition of Welsh music.