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Los Campesinos! releases an exuberant, clever debut

Mychal Stanley | Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In a track on their first EP, Welsh newcomers Los Campesinos! proclaimed they were trying to find the perfect match between pretentious and pop. This venture is nothing new in the genre of indie pop. One of the largest criticisms leveled at indie pop is that it’s too cute, too quaint.

And while tracks with titles like “This is How You Spell ‘HAHAHA, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics'” certainly give the air of pretension, one listen shows exactly how clever and joyful the band really is. They’ve certainly been able to reach that middle ground between the pop of indie pop and the pretentiousness of the genre.

As soon as the entire seven piece band admonishes the listener in the song “Don’t Tell Me to Do the Math(s)” to “give your life to literature, but DON’T READ JANE EYRE,” it’s impossible not to be sold on the exuberant cleverness of their music. Add on that the band is throwing pop hooks from instruments ranging from glockenspiels to violins, in addition to the usual drums, bass, and guitar and you get a band that’s pretty much forcing you to get out of your chair and dance.

It doesn’t matter that the band bellows lines like, “the opposite of true love is as follows: REALITY!” in the song “We are All Accelerated Readers”. If being miserable and unlucky in love sounds this much fun, pretty much anyone can do without love for a little while. But the hilariously clever lyrics don’t end there.

When Gareth sarcastically shouts, “Four sweaty boys with guitars tell me NOTHING about my life,” in “…And We Exhale and Roll Our Eyes in Unison” you’ll wonder why you put so much weight in a band’s words. The band may tell you that “this song is not gonna save your relationship,” but it is easy to see that they are a group of seven people who love and worship music as much as you do. They just decided to pick up instruments and make some of their own.

The Do-It-Yourself attitude of the music does poke through. The instruments are played loud and all at once. Gareth and Aleksandra Campesinos! trade yelps until the entire band joins in the shouting. Their love for the music they’re making is immediately apparent because they just seem to be having so much fun in the studio. It’s the kind of jubilation found in the best songs of bands like Architecture in Helsinki, I’m From Barcelona, and The Polyphonic Spree, except with Los Campesinos!, it just seems so effortless.

A hit against the band and their music, however, is that they have very little subtlety. Their lyrics and wordplay are clever, but there’s little doubt about what they’re singing. The vocals consist of one, two, or all seven band members trading shouts. And while their use of melodic hooks, crescendos, and interludes are wonderfully placed and constructed, they play their instruments all at the same time and at the same volume. One could call them busy and unrefined, but they’re just having too much fun to care.

The hard copy of this album doesn’t come out until April 1st, but is already available digitally. Seriously, go to their MySpace page and try out some of their songs. Consider buying their album, or at least an EP. If you do this, you may have just found your new favorite band. They’re that good.