Album review: Los Campesinos! – ‘Romance Is Boring’ (Wichita)

Still baring their souls but now stepping up their sound, they’re niche no longer

If you’ve ever spent a pained afternoon concocting a mixtape that you’ll never send, or an increasingly drunken evening watching the object of your affections resolutely ignore your existence, then chances are [a]Los Campesinos![/a] were the band you’d been waiting to discover for years. Fuelled by brutally honest lyrics laced over wryly uproarious indie-pop, the seven-piece’s first two LPs were clarion calls for the modern disenchanted.

Problem is, if you were one of those bastards that actually did get the girl/boy, and found obsessively collecting obscure C86 seven-inches an unworthy pastime, then their niche observations may have resonated about as much as a broken snare drum in a bag of cotton wool. However, note the past tense, because although ‘Romance Is Boring’ is shot through with some of the most gut-wrenching lyrical sucker punches around (‘In Medias Res’: “[i]Drop me at the highest point and trace a line around the dent I leave in the ground/That’ll be the initial of the one you will marry now I’m not around[/i]”), team Campesinos! have returned with 15 tracks that both transcend mere indie observations and dabble with the distortion spectrum in ways that laugh at the mention of ‘twee’.

What primarily sets ‘Romance Is Boring’ up as a significant step forward is that it’s incredibly structurally cohesive, and yet blows anything they’ve previously released out of the water in terms of textural intricacy, technical prowess and general experimentation; each track seems to take an element that’s been formerly alluded to and stretch it to a fuller form. From the riot grrrl punk of ‘Plan A’ through to the lo-fi electronic breakdown during ‘In Medias Res’, there’s little here that has the immediate gratification of previous material but, in losing some of the catchiness, they’ve crafted an album that, instead, slowly unveils itself with each listen.

However, amid the swathes of distortion, orchestral additions and discerning guest appearances (including members of [a]Xiu Xiu[/a] and [a]Parenthetical Girls[/a]) lie two slabs of pure beauty: ‘The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future’ is a mass of sprawling violins and bleak, almost spoken-word delivery juxtaposed against a formidable, crashing chorus. ‘Who Fell Asleep In’ is swooning, soaring heartbreak distilled into four minutes, which prove that, while they may have smashed through their former horizons, Los Camp! still know exactly how to get you where it hurts.

If you’re into that kinda thing, that is.

[b]Lisa Wright[/b]

[i]What do you think of the album? Let us know by posting a comment below.[/i]

Click here to get your copy of Los Campesinos!’ ‘Romance Is Boring’ from the Rough Trade shop.