One might think that Los Campesinos! is a simple, laid-back agrarian bunch judging by the name, but this seven-piece Welsh outfit’s musical style testifies to anything but that. Fusing furiously fast tempos and rhythms with sweet, bright melodies accompanied by a male/female vocal combination, Los Campesinos! exemplifies a unique hybrid of rock and pop that brings Arcade Fire to mind, albeit a more humorous and childish twist.
On its latest album, “Hold On Now, Youngster…” produced by Broken Social Scene’s David Newfield, Los Campesinos! demonstrates a diverse array of sounds that has a reasonable level of complexity without sounding too polished. Despite the fullness of the music, there is still an abundance of rawness in the vein of early British punk and garage rock revival. Amidst this though, the prominent glockenspiel works to counteract and balance the abrasive nature of the spiky guitars, lending a delicate touch to steer the songs closer toward pop.
Kicking things off with “Death to Los Campesinos!” all instruments go on instant overdrive with a whistle-worthy glockenspiel melody hovering over all of the chaos while both vocalists create a vocal tandem where each one cuts in back and forth at an alarming rate, leaving them no time to stop and take a breath. “Don’t Tell Me To Do The Math(s)” moves at an equally-fast pace, proving itself to be nothing short of a dance-worthy anthem with enough guitar crunch to help the band retain its rock credibility.
Unlike the male vocalist’s amateurish British drawl, the female lead vocalist, Aleksandra Campesinos, displays an attractive innocence in her voice that impresses the importance of the group’s youthfulness on its cheery, buoyant sound. Although not a superstar singer by any means, her crisp and smooth delivery makes the songs more accessible and listener-friendly.
An indication that this Welsh bunch is capable of writing intricate tunes that push the musical envelope, the nearly seven-minute “You Me Dancing” builds itself with the album’s catchiest guitar and glockenspiel riffs while violins weave in and out to give a subdued, introspective feel in the song’s slower moments. Whereas most of the album’s songs chug through as if suffocating, “You Me Dancing” employs space to let the music breathe and create a vibrant soundscape that allows each instrument to stand out and shine in the spotlight.
While random, senseless and silly lyrics such as “send me stationery to make me horny” and “I’ll be Ctrl-alt-deleting your face with no reservations” show that the group still has a long way to go before it has something meaningful to say, one has to at least give them kudos for taking the road less traveled rather than falling back on safe, traditional rock and pop conventions that govern today’s radio.
Like any group of kids, Los Campesinos! just wants to have fun, as song titles such as “We Are All Accelerated Readers” and “This Is How You Spell, Hahaha, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux Romantics” would suggest it probably isn’t taking itself too seriously or aiming to provoke deep thought. However, with its best years still ahead of it, Los Campesinos! has a brand of upbeat, positive music that should flourish in a live setting where the raw energy and power can pour out and electrify audiences even more so than the record.