Los Campesinos! return with their sixth full-length offering, ‘Sick Scenes’, their first since 2013’s impressive but ultimately undiscovered and underrated ‘No Blues’. The 11 tracks on offer find the seven piece collective in good form, and still treading a line between pissed off frustration and ‘fuck-it’ optimism. Tales of has-been local scenester’s, trips down memory lane, making ends meet and the reluctant acceptance of the cards they’ve been dealt are set to a familiar but timeless good-time indie rock soundtrack.
Opener ‘Renato Dall Ara (2008)’ is vintage Los Campesinos! (circa 2008 you might say) and reminds us why these guys have outlived many of their embryonic peers – great songs, built around catchy and upbeat guitar licks, garage style drums, an intriguing vocal, and the sense that this was a group of people having a lot of fun making their music.
Lead single ‘I Broke Up In Amarante’ is a bonafide indie rock anthem about being drunk, a common coping mechanism of England’s disastrous Euro 2016 campaign – during which the album was recorded in Portugal. It’s up there with the best of Modest Mouse, still proving to be a clear influence on the song writing of Tom Bromley and Gareth David.
Accomplished works like ‘Slow, Slow Death’ (complete with reverb-drenched horns and the best vocal melody of the album) and acoustic-based opus ‘The Fall Of Home’ give away their 10+ years of experience – you don’t write tunes like this on your first couple of records.
‘Here’s To The Fourth Time’ is an electric piano-led number that has a The Flaming Lips feel with harmonised vocals throughout, while ‘Got Stendahl’s’ gives a nod to older influences such as Joy Division and The Beautiful South. The latter is also the album’s longest track, and features an extended solo and outro section celebrating the best the band has to offer – solid musicianship, great vocal ideas and an underlying sense of hope and happiness. Whether that’s the mind-set from whence the tracks were written is unknown, and ultimately irrelevant – if Los Campesinos! are using their music as therapy, I’d hazard a guess it’s working very effectively.
‘Sick Scenes’ is a rewarding listen, whether you’re a long-time fan or a newcomer to this band. Enjoy.
‘Sick Scenes’ by Los Campesinos! is released on 24th February on Wichita Recordings.
Words by Adam Lewis (@adamlew86)