Los Campesinos! - No Blues | Album Review | By Volume

Have you ever thought how young we’d be if we never ever went to school? A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Bye Bye Big Ocean (The End)

Los Campesinos!

No Blues

The title is ironic. Obviously. Come on now.

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Author: on November 15, 2013
October 29th, 2013

Those of us (me) who declared Hello Sadness a transitional record were on the money. If that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t be writing this review; of all the reactions Los Campesinos!’ previous record drew from me, none of them set words flowing or ideas forming with any kind of conviction. Romance Is Boring was Clusterfuck of the Decade, a truly chaotic ricochet through this British arsenal of instruments and uncomfortably forward themes. Two albums on, Los Campesinos! seem to have clambered back to feet. The mayhem isn’t quite as awe-inspiring, but there’s something that feels fresh apart from all that. Plus – “a heart of stone, rind so tough it’s crazy! That’s why they call me the avocado, baby!” Fucking seriously?

No Blues is the aesthetic antithesis to Hello Sadness‘ self-pity, an energetic and euphoric sprint through familiar territory — doubt, weird love, unrequited lust and oddly-placed cultural markers. The dizzying, kitchen-sink approach to song-writing is less conspicuous in absence this time around, as the band meld and mesh far more gorgeously around Gareth’s more refined — though still every-man — vocal clenched fists. Something beautiful happens in the chorus of “Glue Me”, as warm guitars surround a resigned admittance of love and the band sound as poignant as their to-date standout moment, “The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future”, if lacking that track’s moments of pervasive genius.

So the record’s title, of course, is ironic, adorning an album packed full of heart, happy in places but really only joyous in sound. This is a more rounded Los Campesinos!, one which swells from the speakers without so much of the abrasive texture that made Romance Is Boring both my favourite and least favourite of their albums (but mostly the former). Instead, the melodies are more curved than spiked, and the imagery is more cohesive than confounding. In the end, it’s less paralysing, one way or the other; No Blues is an easier record than any yet to fall softly into, to feel comfortable inside without despairing and to feel energised by without exploding. Despite all this, it’s exhausting; arguably the band’s most consistently great record to date, it drains like the leaking heart from “Hello Sadness”, lifted into occasional euphoria by specific sentiments only for the barrage of emotive imagery to rumble on.

And “Avocado, Baby” is the only respite from that assault. The track which most recalls the band’s abrasive former(?) nature is the breathing space that allows the other nine heart-laden rock songs their indulgences, if only through outdoing them in gluttony. A kids’ choir, a clunky metaphor, a drowned-out, beautiful chorus — “Avocado, Baby” is the song Los Campesinos! have always threatened to make, a completely outlandish, complete pop song and yet its presence here is anomalous; a notable splash of obnoxious in this already unsteady pool. It makes one wonder at the arc of Los Campesinos!, and whether they will ever find the balance between these two personalities — the philosophical and the excitable, the ponderous and the reckless. No Blues does a better job than any of their records to date of toeing the line between flippant and hefty, both sonically and lyrically. It feels, for the most part, balanced. I don’t have the time to work out whether my intoxication is in spite of, or because of, that new-found stability.

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