Review Summary: I can't believe I chose the mountains every time you chose the sea is a good place to think we need more post-coital and less post-rock.
I'll be honest: Los Campesinos! annoy the living hell out of me. They make me want to dance around my room and break things, and they get me out of bed in the morning just so I can turn them off, then learn the lyrics and run through my city centre at night screaming, “Fu
ck Los Campesinos!” while my footsteps match the trumpets at the end of 'In Medias Res'. But mostly I just put them on when I'm bored so I have something to think about and someone to talk to. But enough about me: as the record's first lyrics instruct, 'let's talk about you for a minute'
, and whether you fit the description. You see, Welsh indie-rock outfit Los Campesinos! are erratic and weird and all that, but in the end their unpredictable nature is pretty predictable as long as you're like they are. Young. Dizzy. In love. If you prefer terrible nights on the town to boring ones and fiery break-ups to mediocre relationships, they're a band that will find a place in your record collection, even if you only dust them off once a year when you feel like tedium is taking over. If you prefer quiet nights in and falling asleep with a nice book" Best to steer clear.
Notice that a paragraph back I referred to Los Campesinos! as indie-rockers. A year back anything other than indie-pop would have been wholly inaccurate, but that was back when the band were all jangly melodies and cute rhythms, writing songs about ex-girlfriends and best described as 'quirky'. On Romance Is Boring
the most sufficient tag you can apply is 'abrasive'; their quirks have become the staple of their music rather than the accessories, the sudden 2-minute guitar-driven noisefest that is 'Plan A' providing the clearest example of a group that's incapable of sitting still or doing things the normal way, however much more accessible, or sometimes even enjoyable, that might make them. Some of the abrasive moments are debatably accidental; take the lead vocals on 'Who Fell Asleep In', which are – to put it simply – bad. Here's the thing, though, about Los Campesinos!, now more than ever: they seriously make you rethink your definition of such words. Over repeated listens, Gareth Campesinos!' vocals grow and the focus switches to an almost baroque, mid-tempo and intricate backdrop of guitars and violins and heaven knows what. It's one of several potentially grating moments that wins on an intrigue level first and gradually reveals itself as deliberate.
That intrigue stems from the kitchen-sink approach the band possess towards songwriting. With the single exception of the title-track (the album's most straightforward indie-rock song by some way) every last offering features densely packed soundscapes with their roots in post-punk/indie guitars and organic drums but a massive array of supporting instruments that take up just as much of the stage, if not more. These range from synths to electronics, from vocal filters to gang vocals, from brass to strings and from glockenspiels to odd piano flurries. They come at unexpected moments; the chances of Romance Is Boring
ever being transcribed to sheet music is ridiculously tiny, such is the schizophrenic nature of the very modern, dirty indie-rock sound on display. Much as these soundscapes and constructions are complex in a way that implies a lot of care and time is taken, one gets the impression they aren't revisited with much anxiety. There are fleeting interludes in '200-102' (folksy guitars and echoed thuds abound) and 'Heart Swells/100-1' (all tunnel vocals and dial-twiddling ambience) that seem carefree and are simple in their composition, despite what the effects would suggest.
But for all its revelry and disregard for pleasantries, Romance Is Boring
gradually finds its heart as it progresses, and climaxes with the astounding 'The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future'. A rare and uncompromisingly tender moment from a band known far better for their frenzied attitude, the late-album almost-ballad sounds, in no uncertain terms, like the last song a generation will care about. Opening amid a sombre picked guitar and understated strings, it addresses eating disorders and childhood reflection in an arresting and cinematic manner which, if nothing else, proves that Los Campesinos! aren't getting the other aspects of their sound right by accident. 'The Sea...' climaxes numerous times and its 4-minute runtime dissolves in its own engrossing nature, turning the record it adorns into a complete work rather than a collection of songs, and the favour is repaid as the song benefits from its maturity being head-and-shoulders above anything else present.
Should it not already be obvious, I don't understand this album. I merely play it. I could just as easily award Romance Is Boring
a 5 or a 1 and it would still say nothing about the likelihood of you enjoying it; even at a 4, the most arbitrary rating I've ever had to give by some margin, there are still times at which Los Campesinos! make absolutely no sense. That's the main way that Romance Is Boring
represents youth; if you don't like it, then it doesn't give a fu
ck. It has its bad days, its rough edges and its shocking moments. When 'Straight In At 101' bold-facedly asserts, 'Feels like the build-up takes forever, but you never touch my cock!'
the band quite evidently know exactly what they're doing. They're making you sit up and take notice. There is not a second as Romance Is Boring plays that it dares to lose your interest or get comfortable; it will either have you clapping your hands or shaking your head in disgust for 45 minutes straight, and sometimes both at the same time. fu
ck you, Los Campesinos!, and everything you stand for. I love you.