Los Campesinos! – No Blues

At the risk of being ignorant, I’ve always associated Los Campesinos! with worn so thin, they’re effectively transparent pop-punk riffs and bratty Jamie T style vocals, oh so ironically placed over lyrics musing upon adolescent angst. I was wrong, or at least I am now wrong: ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ is so six years ago; make way for the equally emphatic ‘NO BLUES’ (in title at least), which compacts all that crass teenage energy into a dense album of wild complexity.

Expanding upon the style of their until now most recent output ‘Hello Sadness’, the instrumentals on ‘NO BLUES’ are even more diverse. Synthy-electro intros have become a staple of their song structures, and these often even linger through the core of their songs such as in ‘As Lucerne/The Low.’

The general sound of the album is definitely closer to a sort of eclectic indie rather than the simplicity of their earlier releases that were dominated by pop-punk. Just see the reprieve provided by the keyboard bridges in ‘Glue Me’ and then the dramatic piano build up in the middle 8 of ‘Selling Rope’ (Swan Dive to Estuary). ‘Avocado, Baby’ however, encapsulates the commotion of the album’s instrumentals with its rollicking chorus, quirky drum section half way into it and the indelible cheerleader refrain of “That’s why they call you the avocado, baby”, which imitates the beat of 80s hit ‘Hey Mickey’.

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The inventiveness of Gareth Paisley’s lyrics is perhaps the most unexpected feature of Los Campesinos! songs. They are brimming with simple metaphors that verge on clichés: “A heart of stone, rind so rough it’s crazy/ That’s why they call me the avocado, baby”, but knowingly so: it is sung to a cheerleader rhythm. Possibly the best metaphor comes in the allusive ‘A Portrait of The Trequartista as A Young Man’, with the awakening that “love is blind/ A balloon artist kisses the Porcupine”.  Yet the most striking lyrics are in ‘Cemetery Gaits”’(gaits, gates, double entendre!?), with the lusty “I glance along the length of pew and all that I can think is I want to undress you”. The rhyming, which is characteristic of the lyrics throughout, cloak their content in an infantile naivety.

The sole let down of ‘NO BLUES’ is the boring latecomer ‘Let it Spill’, it’s plainness exaggerated by it following the raucous ‘Avocado, Baby’. Verses run indistinguishably into the chorus and its only purpose seems to be to bump the total number of tracks up to ten. Nevertheless, everywhere else this album is at the opposite side of the scale to boring. Even when Los Campesinos!’s sound reverts back to tongue-in-cheek pop-punk, such as in the verses of ‘Far Flotsam’, it is shrewdly that it muses upon the themes of death and love which saturate the album’s lyrics.

NO BLUES is an album of tantalizing variety and energy. The difference in Los Campesinos! now and them at their 2007 debut ‘Hold on Now Youngster’ however is that in the latter the energy was hurled at you from melodies and lyrics like paint in buckets. In NO BLUES the energy is compacted and condensed, simply it’s a fantastic paint bomb of sound.

Robert Firth

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