Los Campesinos! – Previewed

Paul Forster on a band deftly sidestepping growing pains and tentatively embracing maturity…

It is widely believed the idea of selling out died when Kim Gordon modelled for GAP, but the indie-rock world remains a precious one, where cozying up to ‘The Man’ can lead to a trade off: the death of credibility in return for short-term bankability. Last year, indie darlings Los Campesinos! allowed their track, You! Me! Dancing! to be used on a Budweiser ad, ruffling a few fan-feathers in the process. But how are a jobbing band supposed to make money when signed to an independent label (Wichita) and touring America every chance they get? The band have been cheerfully known to cock-a-snook at Bud, drinking other lagers on stage as the song’s long intro builds.

From twee, glockenspiel-wielding beginnings in Cardiff, Los Campesinos! have straddled the giddy tight-roped heights at brake-neck speed, trying to keep their DIY sensibilities in check with their surging ambition. Four albums released since 2008, working with producer John Goodmanson (Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, Death Cab for Cutie) on the latter three, they have managed to augment a sound originally thought of as novelty indie-pop into a fully functioning indie-rock melodrama.

Los Campesinos! can encourage a kind of ambivalence that is uncommon; their obtuse navel gazing sometimes difficult to take with a pinch of salt, but their soaring takes on romantic love and loss have built up their credibility backbone. Where so many miserablists in bands are lacking in bombast, Los Campesinos! have had jam-packed arrangements from the start, and haven’t simplified with the passage of time, instead becoming more nuanced and thoughtful.

Guitarist and songwriter, Tom Campesinos! (that’s his real name, dontcha know?) concurs: “You start off quite idealistic about what you can actually fit into a song, everything fighting against everything else, and that’s fine, it suited those songs. But now it’s like everything is pulling towards the same goal. The idea was to make the most coherent, direct record we can.”

That record, their late 2011 release, Hello Sadness, has built upon these initial foundations, and oversees the progression from keen purveyors of a nagging chorus spouting bookishly literate lyrics in to masters of longing, self doubt, and seemingly authentic feelings. This sonic leap can be attributed to a change in the band’s line up, replacing a violinist/vocalist, keyboardist/vocalist and drummer, and reduced reliance on the girl/boy vocals, leaving Gareth as the main singer.

Most shows are sold out, so if you’ve got some tickets count yourselves lucky. The not-exactly-world-conquering–but-doing-very-nicely-thank-you Los Campesinos! are on a roll that is built around their almost constant touring and frenetic yet maudlin live shows. Come join the pity party, it’s gonna be a blast.

Paul Forster

Los Campesinos! Tuesday 27th March Doors 7pm @O2 Academy, Tickets £10

Posted on 24/03/2012 by thedoublenegative