Review Summary: And when you turn me inside out, believe in me without a doubt, the words were all of his and none of mine
Is it not a bit unfortunate that a band whom built their artistic success on a basis of juxtaposing dainty albeit bombastic pop with raucous albeit still humanized punk rock fail at simply sounding comfortable? That amidst all their talent, specifically that of singer/lyricist Gareth Campesinos! for turning some incredibly awkward moments into broken-hearted anthems–taking their sadness by the reigns--they falter without that essential crux. The Drama, with a capitol “D,” as up until Hello Sadness
that was the only brand they trafficked in, has taken a bit of a back seat to the pop-savvy and tightened song-structure. And while Hello Sadness is in no way a bad record, it is actually damn good, there is a fundamental gut-punch missing from The Campesinos! performance on record even as Gareth foams at the mouth with exceptional turns of phrase (“I’ve been digging my grave/For quite some time/When I’m not digging up the past!”
) and his cohorts surround him in tidal waves of rattling toms, screeching guitars and glockenspiel. These however do little to drown out the sneaking suspicion you have heard this all before and much more provocatively.
Again, maybe we got off to a bad start you and I. Maybe Hello Sadness
is not to be approached in the same open-armed manner as their first few exceptional recordings. On paper the record is streamlined and superbly edited playing into a critique the band had no concept of red tape or a use for B-Sides and promptly proving the doubts incorrect. Sadly what is exposed is LC!’s glaring weakness that recently departed co-vocalist Aleksandra Campesinos! is replaced adequately at best by Garreth’s younger sister Kim. More importantly though is how exciting this band is when Garreth is the middle of a squalling tempest of emotion while acting bat-*** crazy and how merely interesting they are when he simply makes great pop music. In the grand scheme of the Campesino!’s first few recordings, whether they intended it or not, Gareth played second fiddle to Aleks. Her voice the more traditional, more appealing, prettier in both vocal and physical regards she was the face of LC! Or so one would be lead to believe at first.
Part of what made this band so great is how skilled Gareth was at subtly grabbing all of your attention in otherwise not-so-subtle ways. On Hello Sadness
he seems to be making the rounds: a song about prissy boyfriends (“Songs About Your Girlfriend”) equating love to how awful England’s national football team has treated him (“Every Defeat A Divorce (Three Lions)”), and even the requisite song about him being destroyed piece by piece coupled with his out lash at the G-Man (“The Black Bird, The Dark Slope.”) And while if crafted by any other artist these songs could contain a level of gravitas to their honesty that would keep listeners salivating for more. At the feet of Los Campesinos! it is all common-place. Because of this though it is easier to move past Gareth’s diary-page expulsions via shimmering twee-punk and appreciate the fact that instrumentally this band has only grown more talented. It is just unfortunate that Gareth seems to still be searching for an identity the rest of us figured he hammered out with Romance Is Boring
Take for example the excellent “Baby I’ve Got The Death Rattle:” packed full of lightning riffs, crashing drums and excellent, eloquent quips yet something seems amiss. “And I chewed my only necktie/From the metal frame of my bed/Where I tied your wrists together/Spent all night givin’/(Oh, you get the message!)”
Gareth relays and while on record the instance is classically playful Campesinos! part of me cannot help but feel like eight months ago he would be screaming “head!” until his throat was red and bare as opposed to attempting a tongue-in-cheek side step. This band used to revel in awkwardness, unearth redemption in it like few others could. Hello Sadness
is an apt album title as it feels like for the first time The Campesinos! have finally come face to face with true despondency: unquestionable boredom. The trick is to make the listener believe no matter how lackadaisical you sound nothing matters more than your music. Gareth and company still fill those shoes better than nearly anyone else it is just you figure after a few records, international fandom and country-spanning tours they would at least buy a new pair of Chucks.