Live review: Los Campesinos!

Live review: Los Campesinos!

Rainbow, Birmingham, Monday, March 1

Gareth Campesinos! has been explaining to the crowd how nice it is to be back in the city of Birmingham. “This next song,” he continues, “is about how each and every one of us is going to die alone.”

With black hoodie initially pulled up over his ginger mop, Gareth makes a particularly indie-looking Grim Reaper – but there’s no getting away from the fact that in 2010, [a]Los Campesinos![/a] sound rather preoccupied with the bleaker end of the rock’n’roll songbook. Oh, of course the music still romps along like an excitable spaniel, violins and glockenspiels and guitars sawing away in all directions. But whereas early LC! sounded like butterflies in your stomach, the stuff of [b]‘Romance Is Boring’[/b] is more about having a nest of vipers squirming in your belly.

Certainly, there’s a new grace to the band, thanks to Harriet and new recruit Kim on violin and flute respectively. But there’s new grit to balance it out. [b]‘Miserabilia’[/b] and [b]‘There Are Listed Buildings’[/b] colour in space between the awkward art-pop of [a]Xiu Xiu[/a] and the cheeseball pop-punk of [a]Blink-182[/a], and if this sounds like some awkward line-drawing, well, LC! seem determined to embrace such awkwardness. Yes, lyrics like ‘Romance Is Boring’’s “[i]I will wait/I will bake phallic cake[/i]” seem designed to rub you up the wrong way. Still, there is something to celebrate about a frontman who, having had his heart broken, does not mope into his cornflakes but decides to use its sharp edge to carve a lump off everyone in sight. Besides, it’s not like they don’t have a sense of humour about it.

“[i]Some people give themselves to a lover[/i]”, he sings on footie anthem [b]‘Straight In At 101’[/b], “[i]I like to give myself to goals![/i]” The fantastic [b]‘The Sea Is A Good Place To Think About The Future’[/b] is a sign of where they might go next, a wrenching portrait of depression and psychosis that’s raw like a fresh bruise. “She’s not eating again”, howls Gareth, and repeats it three times, impotently, helplessly. Then there’s just time for a final celebratory blast through [b]‘Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks’[/b] in which Gareth and Neil both hop offstage for a romp around in the crowd, and smiles go from ear to ear. If you’ve been listening, though, it’s hard to shake the subtext. We dance tonight – because tomorrow, we’ll be dead. Sweet dreams!

[b]Louis Pattison[/b]