With their shortest title of any release to date, Los Campesinos! are making their grandest statement, Romance is Boring. The third studio album from Cardiff’s indie-popsters is set for release a couple of weeks before Valentine’s Day and finds this seven-piece at odds with love, or at least the physical act of it, and the world in general. Confrontational from the off-set -In Medias Res’ orders ‘Let’s look at you for a minute’, in a manner that only be taken as accusatory, over tinkering bells and violins, and it’s immediately obvious that there has been something of a mood change in the Los Campesinos!, em, camp.
An early official statement says the album is ‘about death and decay of the human body, sex, lost love, mental breakdown, football and, ultimately, that there probably isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel.’ Crikey, this coming from the band that brought us the jangly, joyous ‘You, Me, Dancing!’ defines the term paradigm shift.
What’s also immediately obvious is that their sound has become something altogether more structured, more classic. With the exception of -There are Listed Buildings’, a danceable cheery fiesta with horns and elevating group vocals, or -Who Fell Asleep In’, a waltzing retro-pop ballad, -Romance is Boring’ is hard-hitting and direct.
The title track is a bouncy sing-along anthem, though the video below indicates an altogether darker meaning, that’s sure to be a live favourite. -Plan A’ is abrasive and deliberately cantankerous and, unless you’re in the same frame of mind, can be quite grating, job done.
But it’s album highlight -Straight in at 101′ with it’s punky indie-rock brilliance that seems to embody the LP’s ethos. Jumping from full band noise with taut chugging guitars to sparse pretty moments with quiet ‘oohing’. The song also highlights lead singer Gareth’s growing lyrical prowess; observational, sour, sarcastic and massively witty, with one chorus shedding some light on the lad’s frustration or angst. ‘We need more post-coital/and less post-rock/feels like the build-ups last forever/but you never touch my cock’. There’s no beating about the bush with this lad, or maybe there’s a little too much, depending on the perspective.
At times Romance is Boring feels like listening to a teenage tantrum, crabby, relentless and little tired, which really shouldn’t be the case for an album that barely clocks 45 minutes. If Los Campesinos! attended Hogwarts this would be their Half Blood Prince. Granted the septet have crafted some of their strongest tunes thus far but they seemed to have lost some of their ramshackle charm along the way.