by Preston Radke
The latest release from Cardiff-based outfit Los Campesinos! Is an exercise in nostalgia. Sick Scenes, is the band’s sixth studio album following 2013’s No Blues. This album does much well, and very little poorly. However, this album also does even less regarding innovation both compared to their genre, and their catalog.
Context and meaning (don’t look too hard now…):
Finding meaning in a Los Campesinos! song is effective, yet impersonal. Songs such as “I Broke Up in Amarante”, and “For Whom the Belly Tolls” all skirt the limits of deep, and sensitive topics. Unfortunately, in both cases, the context, and lyrical structure do not match the fervor or pace of the instrumentation. “I Broke Up in Amarante” lyrically details a breakup of a seemingly lost soul with a significant other, simultaneously eluding to internal, and psychological warfare. Los Campesinos! almost negate what they’re saying in this song, and many others, through the use of their overly bouncy, and seemingly positive instrumental constructs. Consequently, as a listener, we receive these constraints and mishaps as if they’re being told to us by a friend of the person, and that person really isn’t much to us.
With that in mind, one wonders if Los Campesinos! does this on purpose. On previous releases like 2013’s No Blues, they also heaped heavy, and deep lyrical parts over dance-ready beats.
Production: Well produced in nearly a poorly-produced sort of way:
Certain bands have a sound. For some bands that may come in the form of a singer’s voice, guitar parts, or even vocal melodies. Los Campesinos!’s “sound” is a merger of Gareth’s punchy, nearing-frantic vocal delivery; and Jason’s very-present, and near-cliched drum parts. Though still an independent band, Los Campesinos! did a great job mixing this album. They were able to maintain that approaching-garage-rock-but-still-discernable vocals-aesthetic that they’ve excelled at for the past eleven years. Gareth’s artfully shouted and carefree vocals are very understandable and discernable over Jason’s previously mentioned “very present” drum parts.
Evolution: For this band, time stands still:
Los Campesinos! Haven’t changed. Six albums in they are still producing the same dance-ready, college-leaning Indie dance pop reminiscent of Japandroids and Franz Ferdinand (but don’t say that so loud). With the exception of their second LP, “We Are Beautiful, We are Doomed” all of their albums feature very similar guitar sections, choruses, and lyrical content. This reviewer wishes that Sick Scenes harnessed and tapped in to some of the Noise Rock experimentation realized on their second release. That being said, if you love Los Campesinos! for what the majority of their previous releases were, then you’ll absolutely adore this record. If you were looking for some sort of innovation, or change-of-direction, then you’ll have to wait until their next release, which shouldn’t be too long considering the band’s previous release timeline.
Songs worthy of the Noble Order of Preston:
“Renato Dall”Ara (2008)”: The opening track allows Gareth’s high-energy vocals to grab the listener and bring them on a journey to whatever party, or rambunctious scenario that this man is involved in. Great drum and guitar interplay as well. A perfect example of phenomenal instrumentation, great vocal patterns, and totally meaningless lyrics.
“Got Standhal”s”: Seemingly buried on the record, this track gives a very, ever so brief glimpse in to some experimentation. The track, unfortunately lacking in lyrical significance, features nontraditional guitar work, and surprising synthe and keyboard constructs.
“The Fall of Home”
In the Sick Scenes Family:
Japandroids: Near to the Wild Part of Life
Cloud Nothings: Life Without Sound
LVL: Return to Love
All Images From: DIY
Sick Scenes by Los Campesinos
Contextually I’ll give the album a 6. As I said before, they could do with some parallel implementation, and maybe even some maturity, but as stated above, the band is sticking to what they’ve done well previously. In terms of nostalgia, the album does very well in allowing thirty-somethings the ability to look back on their wild college exploits in fond regret.
From a production standpoint this album gets a strong 8.5. The album may not be the most clean sounding, or smooth, but that’s the point, it needs to sound weathered, and beautifully imperfect.
Regarding innovation, and band history, this album gets a 4. Los Campesinos! Had the opportunity to really diversify their sound, and grow as a more adult band. Obviously, that’s not something that they want to do, but that’s something that they should perhaps consider.
Ryan is a Music Media Production major who wrote the first ever Byte music review and has been involved with nearly every other section at some point. He is also an event planner at Village Green Records and the primary booking coordinator for the store’s outdoor concerts.