Review Summary: when light leaves, dark sees
Going from having a popular single called ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ and then following it up a couple months later with a record called ‘We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed’ isn’t something most bands would do. But, to be honest, Los Campesinos! are a pretty unique band and I’m not just saying that because they’re my favourite band. From the cheeky one-liners and twee pop influences of ‘Hold on Now, Youngster…’ to the dead-pan delivery and emotional bombast of ‘Romance Is Boring’, each album they’ve released shows a growth in both sound and character, from happy kids to angsty adults.
‘Romance Is Boring’ was a huge statement by Gareth Campesinos! and co. Featuring vocal contributions by Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu and Zac Pennington of Parenthetical girls and brass arrangements by Jherek Bischoff of ‘The Dead Science’, the album was BIG in every sense of the word, almost too big. The album, although pretty fantastic, was messy and felt a bit bloated at times (‘I Just Sighed…’ being the main offender). ‘Hello Sadness’ takes the brass sections, the huge crescendo’s and, of course, the painfully personal lyrics and scales it all down a bit, giving the songs a bit of space to breath and it’s all the better for it.
The album chronicles the break-up between Gareth and ‘Slow Club’s’ Rebecca Taylor and ,as such, is a deeply personal album and the fact that everything is stripped back a bit helps the record fully convey the feelings of loneliness and (obviously) sadness a lot better than if it was another huge album. Yes, this album is less catchy, less immediate than previous releases but I found that this album is a ‘grower’ (I hate that word). If you listen to it all the way through and actually LISTEN to it, you’ll soon find that ‘Hello Sadness’ is LC!’S most mature, and yes, best album so far…
By Your Hand
- LC! announce their return with a simple, poppy keyboard riff before heading into the catchiest chorus on the album with gang vocals that should be familiar to every LC! fan. Gareth goes on to describe Fate as the prettiest girl in the world who ‘Dresses loosely in a bathrobe, with her hair up in curls’ and everything’s going great until ‘she vomits down my rental tux’. The lyrics are the fantastically clever metaphors Gareth is known for. The second verse comes and goes and after a little sex rap by new(ish) member Rob, the final chorus explodes with the amazing brass (arranged again by Jherek Bischoff) before ending with the keyboard riff again. This is an essential LC! track and an excellent opener.
I’m not sure if its love anymore/but I’ve been thinking of you fondly for sure/remember what your heart is for
Songs about your girlfriend
- Here we go, the big guitar-led break-up anthem. Starting with a palm-muted guitar riff everybody comes in at once, Gareth is singing about someone’s girlfriend (hence the title) who, it is later revealed, he used to go out with. Gareth is just jealous because he ‘Never made her smile like that’. Arkwaaarrrdd. Musically, this song is the most conventional on the album which doesn’t make it bad, but it is pretty simple as the main sections just repeated twice then it finishes.
I hung upon her every word/till we were interrupted by the birds/singing ‘Oh your mask is slipping’
- The title track and first single is the first song to actually feel…sad. At points in this track Gareth actually sounds like he might start crying. When the drums come in, the track becomes this emotional anthem with Gareth singing ‘This dripping from my broken heart is never running dry’ and there are these voices during the bridge that seem to be saying ‘I love you’. Heavy stuff. The violin makes a welcome entry in this track as well, which is nice.
I christen all the ships that sail/from your little kisses’ saliva trails/goodbye courage/hello sadness again
Life is a long time
- This song has the worst lyrics on the album, but again, that doesn’t make them bad. A lot of pop punk/emo bands could learn a lot from them. The music is the highlight on this one, with some nice guitar playing and a pretty catchy chorus, despite the slightly generic lyrics. There’s even a sort of guitar solo in this one. Another thing, which goes for the whole album, is that Gareth’s singing has really improved as he sounds pretty sweet on this song.
Life, life is a long time/too long to my mind/too long by far/between my waterfalls and your landslides/there’s cartography in every scar
Every defeat a divorce (three lions)
- Yep, the emotional world cup song. It’s actually about the break-up as well but paralleled with how he felt when England lost the world cup when he was kid. Considering the subject matter, the first half of the song is actually quite dark, with the lyrics ‘These 3 lions that are sitting on my chest/are clawing hard into my skin as I am gasping for my breath/and as they each play noughts and crosses on the scratches they have left/I have to screw up both my eyes as it goes into sudden death’. Ouch. Musically it’s actually fantastic, with acoustic guitars and a big chorus. The beginning of this song sounds like a ‘Johnny Foreigner’ song but I can’t think which one.
And I don’t really know now/what I thought I knew then/you can lead a horse to water but it won’t drown itself
Hate for the island
- This song marks the halfway point of the album, where everything gets a bit more emotional. The song itself is just guitar, violin and vocals. Despite this, it’s actually an incredibly powerful track where Gareth recounts smoking weed ‘In a public loo in a borough of london’, with a friend, who might be dead (the lyrics are very abstract, I think. It’s a tough one)
It’s no lie, if the waters rose/and drowned that place from coast to coast/you wouldn’t see my smile leave my face for all eternity
The Black Bird, The Dark Slope
- All the people who said that LC! are worse now that Aleks has left are wrong, and this song proves it. Kim sings the chorus of this song and, in all honesty, I really wish they’d of used her more in the album. The lyrics seem to be about depression using the black bird and dark slope as metaphors, at least that’s how I see it. Musically it’s pretty epic and fast, with a super catchy chorus and great but simple guitar work. It’s missing something though; I can’t quite put my finger on it.
I ask before I go for you/to drop a lit match down my throat/to smoke the bastard out/or burn him to a crisp
- I’m actually not joking, this is my new favourite LC! song. The vocal melodies are insanely lovely, and the lyrics combined with the soft guitar and glockenspiel in the first half make feel like it’s snowing, and the lyrics are, again, pretty dark. The first half builds-up into an epic pay-off, with piano and a shimmering sort-of guitar solo and Gareth sounds really emotional. It ends with a distorted bass playing on its own. Lonely.
Take a body to water/take a body to tundra/just take me with you as well
Baby, I got the death rattle
- This one is a song of 2 halves. The first is a sad ukulele and piano led section with sad and dark lyrics in which Gareth burns off his palms, then goes to the palmist. His voice goes from right to left and is sometimes distorted, and one time it’s both, which makes for a weird effect. Everything drops out, and it’s classic LC! from here on out. It also has a pretty funny lyric; ‘I chewed my only necktie/from the metal frame of my bed/where I tied your wrists together/spent all night giving he- oh you get message!’ A big catchy shouty bit then ensues with everyone joining in, until it fades out.
You are angel that’s why you pray/I am an ass that’s why I bray
Light leaves, Dark sees part 2
- Whereas part 1 was a poppy love song, part 2 is a defeatist waltz. Gareth lyrics are very sad and portray a heavy sense of longing. It’s just keyboards, guitar and vocals until the last minute, where the drums come in. In the last bit I always imagine everyone swaying with grumpy faces on. And so the album deflates rather than going out in an epic storm of awesome. Not ‘goodbye sadness’ more ‘sadness is here to stay’.
The pain of the silence before bed/oh for the sound of you pissing through the walls/ or stroking your hair
When light leaves, dark sees