Album Review: Los Campesinos!, Hello Sadness
2011, Wichita Recordings
Tom Campesinos!, the guitarist and songwriter for Welsh seven-piece Los Campesinos!, has been blessed with the skill to compose deceptively catchy indie-rock ballads and anthems. Perhaps he has been blessed with great patience as well, for the band’s lyricist and lead singer, Gareth Campesinos!, seems to be cursed with big ambition but “dodgy” talent. Poor Gareth; poor Tom. This inequality in ability is immediately apparent on “By Your Hand,” the first song on Los Campesinos!’s fourth album, Hello Sadness. After 18 seconds of drums and cheery keyboards, it swells in prime Modest Mouse style. Then Gareth takes center stage, muttering about being angry before singing (slightly out of tune) of a “girl, the prettiest in the world.” The listener may be compelled to ask “Who invited this guy?” Now, I’m sure Gareth is a prince of a man. I honestly feel bad for him; according to some reports, he and his girlfriend split before recording Hello Sadness. But on most of the record he comes across as a righteous poet of relationships. Check out this line from the album’s title track: “It’s only hope that springs eternal, and that’s the reason why this dripping from my broken heart is never running dry.” Pretty girls and broken hearts, eh Gareth? Your bandmates must have a thesaurus you can borrow. Still, it is easy to overlook the lyrical and vocal missteps because the actual music is right on track, full of lively hooks and soaring choruses; fans of Cursive, Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, and early Smashing Pumpkins will find beauty here. Great praise should go to Tom—as well as to drummer Jason Campesinos! and Gareth’s sister, keyboardist/backing vocalist Kim Campesinos!—for making Hello Sadness shine despite the earnest misery of their sadsack singer. Someone find Gareth a new girlfriend, and Tom a new frontman, stat.
Hello Sadness will be available at Omega Records at 318 E. Fifth St. in Dayton.