‘I THINK it’s fair to say that I chose hopelessness, and inflicted it on the rest of us, but at least I’ve come to terms with my own mortality’. These are the words that started Los Campesinos!’s second album. It comes through like a bold call-to-arms from a young band trying to plant their feet. Coming just eight months after their debut Hold On Now… Youngster, the band themselves don’t consider it their second album, lasting only thirty-two minutes and featuring nine songs and an instrumental, but to me it represents the best this band have to offer.
It’s odd that one of the best things about this album is that it’s less energetic than the debut. Where their debut was charmingly frenetic, it did feel a little too excited like a barrage of youth about to hit a come-down. Luckily for us, the come-down was beautiful. The guitar work has more of a satisfying crunch; they trimmed down the twee quirks to just a hint of glockenspiel and some frankly stunning violin work and even the backing vocals have hit a more ethereal smoothness. Everything about the album feels like a band who even eight months after their debut had shown massive maturity. The middle of the album is taken by the gorgeous swelling ‘You’ll Need Those Fingers For Crossing’, a near six minute tidal wave of rising dynamics over the near-heartbreaking tale of a sour relationship. Yes, it’s not original but when it’s as well done as this, I can’t really care.
What gives WAB WAD its power is not so much the vocals but more the delivery of Gareth Campesinos (yes they all use the band name as their surname, I said they’d shaved most of the twee quirks). He’s not the best singer but on a deeper level than hitting the notes, he connects with the music. Over the stories of broken romances and throwing up in Mexican restaurants it doesn’t matter if they actually happened, Gareth makes them feel as real and truthful as they should be. He’s also a man that knows his way around a good bit of wordplay. ‘He whispered oh my god, this really is a joy to be hold, I thought that he said it’s a joy to be held so I held him too close’. The lyrics beat with a raw emotion and a wry humour that serve to connect well with the musical style. It’s still heavily involves in the angst of the twenty-something but it seems so sincerely broken that it is hard not to find it endearing.
It’s hard to declare any album an instant classic or even a future classic. It’s why I prefer to focus on albums I’ve loved. There are certain albums that you maybe don’t need to think about because it’s obvious why they stay with you, your Sgt. Peppers, your Nevermind, but then there are those minor masterpieces, the albums you loved when you were a teenager that still thrum with the same power as they did when you first heard them. You can hear them and immediately go back to that first time you heard it and it was as if you were the first person to have this. These albums become precious to you, they begin to shape how you think about music. I’m not saying this album will change your life, it probably won’t, but it is an album of its time and returning to the album is returning to that time. It’s probably easiest just to finish this review by handing back to Gareth Campesinos. ‘We kid ourselves there’s future in the fucking, but there is no fucking future’. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.