Los Campesinos! We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

[Arts&Crafts; 2008]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: indie pop, rock
Others: The Boy Least Likely To

Only a decade or two ago, Los Campesinos!, with their loathing, singsong, gloriously saccharine reminiscences of failed relationships and once carefree youthfulness, would have been the recipients of the upturned noses of most “indie” archetypes. Sure, the back catalogs of countless other acts will reveal entire careers founded upon jouncing hooks, but something perhaps akin to an unwritten rule within the snobbish, self-described “counterculture” has traditionally engendered a general aversion to painlessly catchy songs. But perhaps a gradual blurring between the fecundity of the pop tart-manufacturing mainstream and what has always been considered “fringe” has paved opportunities for more tunefully oriented bands to finally exist as credible entities.

If that's the case, any Top 40 airhead should be tolerable so long as a loutishly rambunctious band like Los Campesinos! crashes into the spotlight every now and then. Last year’s introductory EP (Sticking Fingers Into Sockets) and this year’s earlier debut LP (Hold On Now, Youngster…) were gobbled up by critics and consumers alike. And now, roughly half a year later and between tours, the Welsh septet has reappeared with a follow-up, strutting 10 brand new songs and subsequently demonstrating a valiant understanding that such a fledgling history doesn’t yet warrant a hedonistic slew of B-sides, remixes, or alternate takes (the sessions was originally intended to produce B-sides for forthcoming singles). That is, in a new age of pandering to the consumer in a “counterculture” that has customarily expressed hostility (or at the very least, reluctance) towards consumerism, Los Campesinos! are simply interested in generating accessible and candid music with febrile energy, as any one of their songs flagrantly reveals.

This, combined with the fact that We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed runs nearly contiguous with emo (a genre most derided by the sheepfold crowd that so attached themselves to Los Campesinos! last year by constantly clicking the “refresh” link on the homepage of Pitchfork) is a glaring monument to the band’s approach: they just don’t care, and this record is a commendable unwavering from what some might consider uncouth.

The album's title alone poises it for undesirable eminence as mall rat manifesto, not to mention individual song names like “Miserabilia” and “Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1.” Then there’s the overextended syllables, immoderately verbose song titles, shouted singing, and wittily sappy wordplay like, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder/ Fondness makes the absence longer.” At various points, the sound of Los Campesinos! almost renders them more likely to contribute their unrepentantly sleeved-heart sniveling to a Hot Topic grab bag compilation.

But an acute maturity informs the entirety of We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed. It’s a descriptive term overused in music journalism, but the word seems appropriate while habituating oneself to this album. The music is fully developed and, while indefatigably animated, never tiresome. And the band employs full jurisdiction over what could have turned out to be a bunch of sloppy, recalcitrant songs, considering their multiplex equation of unisonous hollering, co-educational harmonizing, scattershot drumming, and wiggly guitar worked over thrumming bass lines.

Despite the potential for the cheesy conjuring up of prom night recollections or, more immediately, the possible allure for the high school demographic (which isn’t necessarily bad in itself), We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed is an immensely enjoyable, plain-sailing cluster of energetic, singable melodies. With Los Campesinos! so aptly demonstrating their abilities, the anticipation of a third full-length is only stronger.

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