Zachary Cole Smith has overcome a multitude of problems to make this intensely powerful album
Live Review: Los Campesinos!/Summer Camp/GROUPLOVE
02 Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 2nd February
Whoever said that youth is wasted on the young must have been some kind of sadist. Who would willingly again suffer the triflings of confusing young lust, those unlearned fumbles in the dark beneath embarrassing childhood bedsheets? Certainly not Grouplove’s Christian Zucconi (a dead ringer for Thurston Moore), who on the LA five-piece’s closing number, ‘Colours’, yowls, “I am a man, man, man, man” in pleasingly desperate, scratchy tones.
Lady of the synths Hannah Hooper sports a theatrical mask and huge, hooping black tutu, contributing to a raging melodrama that makes like
a jejune Arcade Fire hopped up on blue Smarties. It’s exciting beyond belief, and it’s not often that such a feeling jumps up and bites you on the bum with a band so fresh-faced.
Perhaps the last lot that truly appeared from nowhere and thieved our hearts are the band on next – the lovely Summer Camp, who are now the flabbergasting live act we always knew they could be. Elizabeth Sankey stands strident by her box of synth gizmoids, clutching her fist to her chest during ‘Veronica Sawyer’, a tale of a shit party so pin-sharp in observation you can practically smell the lurid-alcopop vom.
Its refrain, “I’ll never be young, never be young again” is a canny thing – is it the choice of “I would never” or the lament of “I will never”? ‘1988’ is a glorious marriage of sherbet vocals and gravelly drum machine, and new song ‘I Want You’ is a darker beast than the rest of their sweet sentiment, womping with slow dancefloor brood and the hefty weight of sheer obsession.
Los Campesinos! aren’t ones for such direct declarations of love – after all, where would the fun in their bitter spurn be if they had the chutzpah to just come out and say it? Gareth is the perfect effervescent teenager, reeling back and forth on ‘Death To Los Campesinos!’, making NME cringe a little as he deadpans, “I think we need more post-coital and less post-rock” on ‘Straight In At 101’, awkward with the grotesqueness of toothy teenage pashing.
Watching Los Campesinos! live is akin to witnessing a mass confession, the crowd swelling with catharsis, pogoing powered by the ecstasy of finding someone who knows what you’re going through. Critics may whinge that it’s all a bit self-indulgent and non-political, but what this band understand wholeheartedly is that there’s a raging internal battle that’s got to be won as well. With guys like these on your side, maybe this ‘tender age’ business isn’t so bad after all…
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