Los Campesinos!: Hello Sadness Review
Los Campesinos! have made a career out of being unapologetically graphic, thanks in large part to frontman Gareth Campesinos’ crass lyricism, spewing about everything from soccer to getting his junk fondled (with a slight emphasis on the latter). The material on Hello Sadness, their fourth proper album in as many years, follows suit, but also shows a remarkable amount of vulnerability, something that is equally surprising & welcoming.
“By Your Hand” kicks off the album as you’d expect. It’s a fiery, gang vocal-laden anthem that hears Gareth exclaim ‘We were kissing for hours with her hands in my trousers, she could not contain herself, suggest we go back to her house.’ Well that’s where the romance ends, as the sprightly female muse promptly honks all over his crisp rental tux, giving us the kind of bait-and-switch (and palm to face) situation that Gareth & crew have always made the listener visualize so clearly.
“Songs About Your Girlfriend” and the album’s title track follow, truly showcasing Gareth’s emotional fire hose delivery, while “Life is a Long Time” oozes with a Cure-esque influence, both in its dark, depressing lyrics and its reverb-heavy rhythm guitar. “Every Defeat a Divorce (Three Lions)” gives us a recurring sentiment as Gareth dejectedly gives up, shrugging and declaring ‘it’s par for the course I guess.’ He slumps even further in “Hate for the Island,” all while tipping a cap to Minnesota, where he supposedly received a trauma-inducing phone call that is reflected in this 2:20 of loss (oh, and weed), and is quite possibly the same transmission that led him down this dark slope in the first place.
To get us out of these doldrums, we get some vintage Los Campesinos! with “The Black Bird, The Dark Slope,” complete with spastically complementary male & female vocals, excessive cymbal splashes and the kind of cheeky xylophone that so many of the band’s Arts & Crafts label mates covet so dearly. On “To Tundra,” though, the razor is back at the wrists as a yearning Gareth begs ‘take a body to water, take a body to tundra, just take me with you as well.’
Hello Sadness reaches its emotional climax with “Baby I’ve Got the Death Rattle” and “Light Leaves, Dark Sees Pt. II,” darkly hypnotic letters to someone we probably don’t know, but who we’re compelled to attack if and when we do meet. As a sleepy guitar strums the album to a close, Los Campesinos! complete their transition from pub-loving punks to purveyors of unabashed heartache, a guise that’s both humbling & hopeful.
-Steve Skavnak (@steveskavnak)