‘Romance is Boring’ | Los Campesinos

| Cadenza Reporter

Rating: 4/5</em
For fans of: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Bishop Allen
Tracks to download: ‘A Heat Rash in the Shape of the Show Me State; Or, Letters to Charlotte,” “Straight in at 101,” “I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know

There’s a lot to like about the newest offering from Los Campesinos!, and even if you can’t enjoy the driving twee pop or clever lyrics, we Missourians can at least appreciate the shout-out to our home in the song “A Heat Rash in the Shape of the Show Me State; Or, Letters from Me to Charlotte.”

The song is a good sampling of what you can expect from “Romance is Boring.” Longtime fans of the band will also be happy to know that this album is relatively similar to their last project, 2008’s “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed.” Just as on that album, the listener can feel the presence of all seven members on each track because the band excels at layering the instrumentation and the vocals, from buzzing guitars to a keyboard imitating a music box to half-spoken vocals with swelling feedback. To add to the busyness, Los Campesinos! also employ a boy-girl attack and occasionally use the whole group to sing in chorus or lead a shout-along.

With the instruments all doing their own thing like mechanisms in a finely-tuned machine, The Peasants! proclivity to switch styles mid-song can have the effect of sounding like, well, like throwing a wrench into everything. But theirs is a controlled chaos in which neither the band members nor the listener loses sight of the song’s intent. If the guitar ratchets up the menace (as on “Plan A”) it’s to complement the similarly agitated lyrics. If there’s one major fault on “Romance is Boring,” it’s that the vocals of frontman Gareth, delivered in a near-spoken manner, leave something melodic to be desired.

Don’t let the group’s “pop” label scare you away. Sure they can bounce a melody along with the best of them, but lyrically the band is more likely to sing about prescription pill abuse and anorexia (“The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future”), sexual impotence and violence (“Straight in at 101”), and heresy and ennui (“Who Fell Asleep In”) than anything you’d hear come out of a former Mouseketeer.

But amid this cast of desperate characters, Los Campesinos! are at their best when they’re looking for the silver lining. That Missouri-shaped bruise isn’t yellow, they tell us; it’s golden.