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Welsh pop band evolves with their latest album

November 18, 2011

Welsh popsters Los Campesinos! have made a name for themselves over the past few years by turning misery into party music for the emotionally disturbed. Marrying highly literate lyrics about sex and emotional instability with a spastic seven-piece band, they carved out a respectable niche for themselves in the indie music scene.

Their latest album, “Hello, Sadness,” reveals a band that is calming down both musically and emotionally. Instead of making each song sound as desperate as its subject matter, Los Campesinos! slow down their usual musical sprint to a brisk walk and exchange a few vividly described disasters for reflection on their aftermath.

But before getting down to contemplation, Los Campesinos! kicks off their latest album with a couple  of throwbacks to their earlier releases.

“By Your Hand” launches the album with what may be the most buoyant bit of pop the band has produced so far. Featuring Los Campesinos!’s normal combination of sex, vomit, bitterness and cleverly turned phrases, “By Your Hand” adds an infectious group chorus that begs for repeated listening.

“Songs About Your Girlfriend” raises the sexual ante several degrees, but is more grating than good.

It’s not until the third and title track that the band unveils the sound that defines the remainder of the album. The music remains energetic, but tautly controlled. The lyrics step back from the vivid, defiant immediacy of previous albums allowing room for acceptance of the pain they describe.

“Every Defeat a Divorce (Three Lions)” turns the band’s usual romantic ruminations toward the football pitch (soccer field, for us Yanks) in a lament about England’s World Cup shortcomings and family memories.

“Hate for the Island” sees Los Campesinos! reach their mellowest moment of melancholy. An understated guitar line gives way to gentle keyboard and flourishes of background distortion as lead singer Gareth Campesinos! reminisces about a deceased friend.

The next track, “The Black Bird, the Dark Slope,” acts as an anthemic counterpoint as the singer’s contemplation turns inward toward a metaphorical bird that devours him from within.

“To Tundra” opens with gentle, airy harmonies that give way to one angry voice as the song moves from ideal love to defiant isolation.

“Hello Sadness” ends worlds away from where it began with “Light Leaves, Dark Sees Pt. II” a lilting farewell to a lost lover who treats the line “When the light leaves, then the dark sees” like a mantra that just might save its singer.

Where earlier albums succeeded by stringing together well-honed one-liners over amphetamine-fueled pop, “Hello Sadness” hits its stride with songs populated by malicious metaphorical animals, torn skin, death, oceans and erosions. The band has learned they can convey with restraint emotions deeper than the melodrama of previous albums.

For fans willing to evolve with the band, this may be Los Campesinos!’s finest work yet.

Wesley Teal
News Editor

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