Everyone has one of those friends. That guy who, after graduating from college, decides he is going to reinvent and/or “find” himself, then embarks on some kind of major soul-searching exodus (e.g. hiking the Appalachian Trail, backpacking through Europe, going to India, etc.). This guy then returns and is essentially the same as when he left. The only noticeable difference in his personality or general outlook on life, barring any major facial hair changes, is that he is now only interested in talking about just how different he is. He is not only incorrect, but incredibly annoying.
This is essentially the road that Los Campesinos! are headed down with their latest effort Romance Is Boring. If they hadn’t specifically stated on multiple occasions just how different Romance was, then perhaps we could have just gone along our merry way, enjoying another great Los Camp album without expectations. But they just had to be that guy. It’s unfortunate that their PR camp is selling the Welsh septet short by contextualizing Romance as a complete departure from their previous work. Far from a reinvention, the album is simply an extension on the claim they’ve already placed on the frenetic, adrenaline-induced indie rock scene.
This is not to say that Romance isn’t worth listening to. The album is a carefully crafted rollercoaster of emotional and auditory highs and lows, exhibiting the group’s subtle growth since its major breakout, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed. The vocal complexity of songs like “This Is A Flag. There Is No Wind,” featuring newcomer Kim Campesinos!, proves that Los Camp have branched out from just keyed-up Brit pop to more thoughtful, layered material. This may or may not have something to do with the contributions of Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart, the reigning king of strange layered noises — 2004 saw this bubble gum pop of noise bands squeaking a partially inflated balloon into a microphone.
This shift from simple to complex is subtle, nothing that is overtly noticeable on a casual listen. In fact, much of the material on Romance would fit right in with We Are Beautiful and Hold On Now, Youngster…. It’s this kind of careful evolution that could allow Los Camp a bid on a longer stay on the indie rock scene. Someone just needs to tell them to cool it on the sweeping generalizations. America already has someone covering Change They Can Believe In.
01. In Medias Res
02. There Are Listed Buildings
03. Romance Is Boring
04. We’ve Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)
05. Plan A
07. Straight in at 101
08. Who Fell Asleep In
09. I Warned You: Do Not Make an Enemy of Me
10. Heart Swells/100-1
11. I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know
12. A Heat Rash in the Shape of the Show Me State; or, Letters From Me to Charlotte
13. The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future
14. This Is a Flag. There Is No Wind.
15. Coda: A Burn Scar in the Shape of the Sooner State