2008 was a different time, arguably the heyday of the average millennial. Indie pop ruled the music scene, swine flu was about to become a potential crisis, and most of us were still living off pocket money from our parents.
It was in 2008 that Los Campesinos! released their first two albums, packed with narratives of teenage relationships and awkward sexual encounters. As a band that grew their fan base through relentlessly cheerful songs about feeling sad, LC! could have easily sustained these themes for a new generation of teenage hearts.
Luckily, the band has grown up while retaining a hint of nostalgia. Opening on ‘Renato Dall Ara (2008),’ which is an anthem for those of us that feel we peaked when we were hipsters before we came self-aware. Echoing the twee pop strains of early releases, the song reminds older listeners of why they loved the band with a string of “ooh-oh” which brings to mind a crowd of teenagers dancing à la Skins.
Whereas previous albums revolved around disastrous romances, there’s a new found focus on the possibility that maybe your unhappiness is down to yourself – ‘Sad Suppers’ is full of epiphanies shoved to the side and maybe trying to do too much.
True to form, LC! manage to reflect the whiniest emotions of their listeners with a chorus of unfairness and feeling the worst characterising ‘I Broke Up in Amarante,’ albeit with the maturity to recognise “You really can’t complain/It’s just a holiday” combined with guitar lines
The teenagers of 2008 whom have now turned adult have to contend with a housing market that hates them and a lack of job options. ‘The Fall of Home’ is a prescient ballad of drifting apart and back to where you grew up, where your parents live and where fascists begin to gather as rents rise in the trendy city you ran away to.
Gareth Campesinos seems to find his previous lyricisms exhausting, noting now that “depression is a young man’s game” in ‘5 Flucloxacillin’ before bemoaning the dread of hangovers.
The Campesinos are determined to remain relentlessly gloomy, but now it’s the dull ennui of adulthood. From choosing to ignore your problems in ‘Got Stendahl’s’ with a chorus of “I don’t want to know,” to feeling indecisive with the line “your hand is on the pen/But you can’t sign the pact” coming in as if from a choir in ‘A Litany Heart Swells,’ one thing is for sure – the band may be aging, but that doesn’t mean they’re growing up.
It’s only fitting that the album finishes on ‘Hung Empty,’ with synths and layered vocals paying homage to their musical history but which notes that “it’s not right to call this old age/But it certainly ain’t youth no more.” Perhaps the band can continue to narrate the emotions of a particular generation as time goes on – maybe in 2098, there will be gloomy songs about being bored in nursing homes.