There was a time when Los Campesinos! was fun — when its music bounced with peppy instrumentals and youthful energy. It seemed like nothing was off limits to the UK band, as it used each and every song as a launching point into new levels of perkiness.

Los Campesinos

Hello Sadness

Arts & Crafts


Guitars played quick flurries of notes in the highest octaves available to them. Vocals sounded more like the chirps of cartoon characters than the voices of actual people. Lyrics dealt mainly with topics of dancing and lust. It wasn’t unusual for songs to break into 30-second intervals of static and undistinguishable noise — hard to listen to, yes, but infectiously happy all the same. The band’s spirit was endearing: young, carefree and maybe a little over-the-top.

Unfortunately for Los Campesinos! fans, no party can last forever. The band’s new album, Hello Sadness, is fully deserving of its title, as it’s stripped of the vibrant music and attitude that characterized the band in the past.

Simply put, Hello Sadness is a tease. It offers glimmers of hope in every track but is quick to stomp them out, usually with dull, trudging melodies or lack of melody altogether. For instance, “Life is a Long Time” may have a snappy chorus, but that doesn’t make up for the monotonous verses that infect it.

Charming female vocals and twinkling bells aren’t enough to break the monotony in “Songs About Your Girlfriend.” Even the gut-wrenching “To Tundra” is soiled by its average sound: Lyrics like, “We take on the burden of all these sad-eyed children / With lilies bunched in our hands” ache with passion, but they are swallowed by the less-than-memorable track. Mediocrity can be such a buzzkill.

It’s not all bad, though — some tracks, like “By Your Hand,” are pleasant from start to finish. That song’s energy is immediately addictive, from its opening with arcade-like keyboard and light, rhythmic clapping. Vocals elevate the blissful sound further: It’s hard not to smile at the lead singer’s hunky accent or the chorus of high-pitched singers in the background. The song is lively enough to make even the cheesiest lyrics forgivable. Bad rhymes like “We were kissing for hours / with her hands in my trousers” and “This is the crux / she vomits down my rental tux” just feel appropriate amid the joyful music. The track shows Los Campesinos! at its best, focused and developed while still being vibrant.

Still, these occasional moments of enthusiastic genius aren’t enough to save Hello Sadness from its overwhelming averageness. What stands out most about the album is the way it fails to stand out: It’s just as difficult to identify parts that are downright awful as it is to pick out its strengths. The music is too predictable and cemented in convention to make a real impact — a surprising twist from a band that once sang about Spider-Man and the erotic nature of stationary.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.