Los Campesinos!, Slow Club
Edmund Townend 21/05/2010
Most people's first impressions of Los Campesinos! is of a twee eight piece band that plays upbeat pop. Wrong. Dead wrong. Gareth Campesinos! described their latest release 'Romance Is Boring' in three words: Sex, Death and Football. And there is nothing twee about football.
Before the arrival of the octet in Cardiff University's Solus, they treated us to their great choice of supports which is a pattern amongst their tours, with Islet, Danananananaykroyd and Spark Deathcap in recent months - the latter being so good, that they hired him as an additional Campesinos!. Tonight is no exception, starting off with the sparse yet voluminous Right Hand Left Hand to a near empty venue (which was a shame) they rattled through a great guitar and drum set complete with serious manipulation of delay pedals and some smashing noise. Next came the appropriately named Slow Club who although sometimes drifted from the slow pace, was relatively quiet and calm in lieu of the amassing number of noisy students. Seriously, even the ex-Cardiff student headliners had a word or two against them. Their great blend of strange folk-inspired pop was lost on half of the audience and lapped up by the other half.
Los Campesinos!' set was bitter, twisted and altogether a lot of fun. Only after a keen listening session can you really tell that behind the uplifting sounds of violin, glockenspiel and bright synthesiser there is dark humour and just plain old darkness. The crowd certainly felt this, and instead of relaxing and standing around to listen, there was about as much movement as there could possibly be. The set started out with the explosive yet eloquent 'I Sighed. I Sighed, Just So You Know' - see I told you it was melancholy. It's the perfect and unashamed outlet of real angst, not the generalised fakery of emo and stupidity of metal. The upbeat fights the downbeat in perfect yet chaotic symmetry. The lyrics are elaborate and display similar humour to The Smiths' woeful tunes. The music itself almost matches Johnny Marr's guitar swathes, but in a totally different way by feeling like an orchestra, but really just consisting of the slightly rock band setup. The newer songs present this feel, whilst the older material is noisy but simplistic like in 'Death To Los Campesinos!' Still, despite this simplicity the effect is to shake the floor and raise the voices in the crowd. Miserabilia showcases the upbeat pop whilst darkly sighing lyrically.
The balance between all-out rock angst and sweet orchestration tos and fros in songs like 'Letters From Me To Charlotte', whereas the pop is apparent in 'There Are Listed Buildings' with rallying cries of “Bah bah!”. Genre hopping once again, 'Romance Is Boring' is fuzz rock with an anthemic chorus of the title. Possibly with the longest title of the set 'This Is How You Spell. “Ha Ha Ha, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics”' shivers through a strange mixture of overwhelming instruments, yelping choruses and a heartbreaking breakdown monologue (which is uttered a little too fast, possibly in embarrassment at the openness of it all).
'My Year In Lists' is as twee as it gets but the opening line of “You said send me stationary/to make me horny” betrays it almost immediately, turning it into a bitter and frustrated rant whereas 'Straight In At 101' features R-rated lyrics with its central focus on sex (“I think we need more post-coital/and less post-rock”). 'There Is A Flag. There Is No Wind' continues the obscenity with possibly one of the best climaxes in an introduction ever. In 'You! Me! Dancing!' the most well-known Campesinos! track, the introduction is about half the song's length and after a long wait, the crowd moves the most it has all night. 'We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed' leaves all sense of British reservation behind as the band screams out “Oh we kid ourselves there's future in the fucking/but there is no fucking future!” and smile as they hear it as strong, if not stronger from the crowd. The pace slows for the incredibly mournful and beautiful 'The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future' which would place amongst the best songs of this year, if it wasn't released before the album in 2009. The intricacies of the song's quiet instruments are a sombre background to the heartfelt and erratic lyrics. The bridges are yelled, and the choruses are in chorus.
'Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks' returns the atmosphere to upbeat again, in spite of its multi-layered lyrics with a rallying cry of “One blink for yes!/Two blinks for no!” before the band leave in preparation for the encore. In said encore, the majority of the band jump into the crowd to scream the intro “1, 2, 3, 4!” of 'Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats' which ends on a truly sombre note. Truly, Los Campesinos! are kings of the upbeat downbeat - if only they weren't so modest about it.