Review Summary: Shout at the world because the world doesn't love you; lower yourself because you know that you'll have to.
We're unpredictable and we damn well know it. We drink to get drunk and do things just to say we did them; we gamble too much, we're obsessed with sex and music, we can't see past tomorrow and can't remember back past yesterday. We are melodramatic, romantic, emotionally detached and in way over our heads; we hide our bitterness and torment under layers of idiosyncracy and over-the-top hyperactivity, hoping our twins and reflections won't call us out. We use technology as an artificial extension to our personalities and we ourselves are a mess of bolt-on ideas and temporary mindsets, changeable and sensationalist but somehow coherent beneath it all. We know we're fucked, but every word we say denies it, and everything we do is designed to forget it. We are fake by default, making us more real than we'll ever care to admit.
As a whole, we have no torch carriers akin to those that fronted the rock and roll or punk revolutions. We have no unifying musical cause or direction, preferring sub-cultures to even the most ambitious and honest conformity, choosing fragments of culture from varied sources as opposed to adopting a single, bold mindset. But if you zoom out far enough, everything has a form; this generation is, at its core, awkward and schizophrenic, indulgent and imperfect, and beautiful. Such a mess we are that the search for a real musical spokesperson is futile, but a more abstract figurehead does already exist. Less a band that represents the youth of the new millennium and more one which reflects it, Los Campesinos! are every bit as annoying and heartbroken as the next noughties kid, because they belong to that age bracket themselves.
Oh, we kid ourselves there's future in the fucking, but there is no fucking future.
Packed with screeching guitars, glockenspiels, racing synths and male/female dual vocals, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
is a succinct, dizzying and lovable experience that takes time and some effort to fully appreciate; on first listen it appears a jumble of excitable melodies, lyrical soundbites and pretentious quirks, and while it remains to this day an excitable, quotable, pretentious jumble, it seems so much more. These twee indie-pop bursts are the home to an enormous amount of depth in both arrangement and purpose. It breaks through on the anthemic title track first, when male vocalist Gareth Campesinos! (the band adopt false surnames) screams, 'I hope my heart goes first,'
amid (among others) crashing violas and cymbals, and the rest, in time, follows suit.
That's not to say We Are Beautiful
is anything less than a riot. It's loud and it's fast. It changes direction so frequently and so unexpectedly that it's difficult to keep track; despite its short running time, it's unlikely you'll ever know this record inside out. The hooks, however, will stick after the first listen - infuriating, addictive and great fun, the climaxes of songs like 'Ways To Make It Through The Wall' are both euphoric and sideways-glancing, Gareth and Aleks trading words like friends enjoying in-jokes, until a crescendo of guitars and synths brings the track to a close. For all the layers to these tracks, it's rare - although by no means never the case - that the band lose themselves or over-exert. Even when 'Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1' morphs into a wall of screaming guitar lines and static in its final minute, a simple but tender picked acoustic guitar remains the focus, even when it's almost buried.
I seduced your ex-boyfriend to help you get over him; you found him more attractive, it helped you get over me.
Really, that's how We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
is best defined; it always feels at risk of becoming a total mess but is ultimately held together by its character. Some people are bound to hate that personality - there are times when this album is grating, even for fans of the band - but others are sure to see themselves in the stories and ideals these Wales-based indie-rockers hold dear. It's sugary, catchy, and won't sit still, but in the drifting electronic interludes and Gareth Campesinos!'s diary entries there's raw, gut-level emotion. Whether he's yelping couplets of self-depreciation or speaking down-tempo verses to girls, it's clear that these 10 songs possess a heart.
If you allow it to, We Are Beautiful
is one of those records that will stick its foot in the door of your music library and refuse to ever really leave. At a first listen it's likely to sound like throwaway pop music, and sometimes, by accident or design, that's even what it is. It's unresolved, flawed and too self-aware for its own good, but it's also gloriously careless, heartwarming and so much goddamn fun. We're a whole lot of things but Los Campesinos! have it pretty much figured out; we are beautiful, and we are doomed. This album proves it.
I think it's fair to say that I chose hopelessness, and inflicted it on the rest of us, but at least I've come to terms with my own mortality...