There’s really no better way for a band to shed its delectably twee persona than by enlisting the grotesque image of a bleeding leg as album artwork. For Los Campesinos!, an indie-pop band that once boasted cutesy claims like “You! Me! Dancing!,” the artwork is a symbol of the relinquishment of a once adorably awkward image. On their third album, Romance is Boring, the members are out to prove they’ve got more up their sleeves than just sugar-induced kiddie pop.
Romance is Boring
Arts & Crafts
Romance is Boring isn’t anything new. It’s exactly what one would expect from a band composed of hormonal, soul-searching youths. The record plays like a melodrama that “Twilight” and Twitter-obsessed tweens will surely swoon over. Topics span a laundry list of quintessential teenage dilemmas, from anorexia and suicide attempts to trips to the E.R. and sexual frustration. Our parents were right; teenagers are exhausting — and miserable, apparently.
But even listeners who have grown out of those pinnacle teenage years are sure to find the album a nostalgic treat. The record brings back memories of the self-absorbed anguish-pop indie fans listened to in high school when they were first acquiring their alternative musical tastes. If ever an album defined the teenage angst genre, this is it. So lock your bedroom door, ignore your mom’s bogus pleas to “turn it down” and give into your tormented teenage soul.
The saga unfolds with “In Medias Res,” a track that’s so schmaltzy it’s almost too much to swallow. Through a backdrop of twinkling keys, listeners are taken through a world of carefree adolescence where teens steal vodka out of their parent’s cupboards and ponder the significance of life on soul-searching joy rides. Ah, to be young!
Still, the standouts are the songs in which frontman Gareth Campesinos shamelessly unravels the depths of his besieged twentysomething soul. His achy, moody vocals were made for self-pity. Tracks “The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future” and “Coda: A Burn Scar in the Shape of the Sooner State” mark the band’s venture into the solemn, atmospheric unknown. While it may seem juvenile for Los Campesinos! to use such emotionally draining themes in the track titles, these outfits prove to be anything but amateur.
In these epic ballads, the band displays tremendous musical growth. On “Future” a slow buildup of delicate violins plays over Gareth’s fittingly whispered vocals until the fragile stillness is broken by crashing cymbals and coarse shouts. The track’s subject matter leaves listeners feeling like powerless, sympathetic bystanders. Gareth describes a girl coping with an eating disorder and who is ultimately lost in the confusion of transcending from adolescence to adulthood.
The ballad’s chorus (“all you can hear is the sound of your own heart”) sets a vulnerably raw tone. Through tumultuous waves of sound, Gareth’s realization that there isn’t always “a light at the end of the tunnel” is achingly heartbreaking. With tracks like “Future,” Los Campesinos!’s geeky indie-pop guise is forgone by the way of beautifully composed ballads.
According to the band, Romance is Boring is “about death and decay of the human body, sex, lost love, mental breakdown and football.” It’s only natural for a band composed of a bunch of hormonal youths going through those awkward growing pains to let their music be a source of catharsis. With Romance is Boring, Los Campesinos! prove that they are capable of more than Converse-kickin’ beats and the cookie-cutter pop persona. Here’s hoping Los Campesinos! will continue to experiment with moodier themes and instrumental backdrops.