Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness

hello sadness

Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness
Wichita
November 15, 2011

What It Sounds Like:  Indie pop with hints of a true rock band underneath.

It’s better be honest right off the bat.

Los Campesinos! have released four albums and two eps.  I own 2011’s Hello Sadness, and that’s it.  Whenever I heard their name, I knew that they were deep into the “indie pop” scene, which more than any other genre for me is hit or miss.  Fifty people up on stage dressed in either a) overly colorful clothing or b) like they’re from the 1920’s.  A girl playing the xylophone and smiling way too huge throughout the whole set, followed by dancing that should only be done in your living room when no one else is around.  Not because you should be ashamed of it, not at all.  Just because the adopted mentality of  “I know I’m a terrible dancer, so when I do it, I’m gonna smile the whole time to show you how secure I am in myself to do it” is a reach for me to get with.

Maybe these guys pull the same antics.  I have no clue; I’ve never seen them live.  But if the recording Hello Sadness is any indication, these guys are certainly better than the norm on some of these songs – even if they do bring out that darn xylophone on Every Defeat A Divorce – Three Lions.  The second half begins to slide into some somewhat filler music, but from the outset, it can’t be knocked too bad at all.

At its heart, this music is certainly indie pop – there’s no real way around it.  Parts of it you could define as, I shutter to say, cute.  Choruses sang as a big family, probably with their arms around each other – almost brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?  Yeah, almost – but not quite.  Frontman Gareth Paisey adds his somewhat warbly theatre voice to the mix, and while it grows on you, it’s slightly hard get accustomed to from the outset.  It’s another staple of the genre, where vocals are sometimes delivered with a passion that really isn’t warranted.

Following the trends again, we lyrically deal in heartbreak and off-the-beaten-path references.  “I wear a ring of your lipstick / Round the knuckle of my 4th digit, it / Reminds me what our bodies sowed / It will do until we are betrothed” is from the title track.  You want another one?  Alright, fine, fine.  “I christen all the ships that sailed / On your little kisses’ saliva trails / Goodbye courage / Hello sadness again”.

There must not be any light left in the world.  Cheer up, man!  The lyrical standout on the record is Songs About Your Girlfriend.  I know what you’re thinking – you think you know where the writer’s head is at.  Give it a spin.  Karma baby.  Karma.

What sets these guys on a slightly different trajectory is that they are not afraid to put a little free-wielding rock ‘n’ roll into some of these songs, like the finale  of Hello Sadness or The Black Bird, The Dark Slope.  It makes their appeal much greater for me, because while they are firmly rooted in the indie-pop scene, they know how to expand and show a little bit of exciting power at times that isn’t really found in many bands that play this style.

It’s amazing how many bands can’t bring about ten good songs for an album.  I mean, the first five tracks are great.  But we then have the semi-song/interlude  Hate For An Island, followed by four more tracks of just – blah.  They’re not terrible – not at all!  But it’s nothing that I wouldn’t mind skipping over.  The ending of The Black Bird, The Dark Slope that I mentioned earlier can’t even’t save them.

Split it down the center.

First half:  7/10
Second half:  3/10
Overall….

5/10

If you had to listen to two tracks:  By Your Hand / Songs About Your Girlfriend

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