Reviewed by: Matt Kelchner
Almost nine years ago to the day, Los Campesinos! released their debut album, Hold on Now, Youngster… The seven piece band from Cardiff, Wales burst into the indie world with their unique blend of twee and C86 influences. As their catalog increased over the years, the group swayed away more towards indie pop and rock characteristics. On Sick Scenes, their sixth studio album that comes out today, Los Campesinos! step back to familiar territories as they push on towards their double digit birthday.
Throughout Sick Scenes listeners can pick out motifs and sound bits that harken back to past albums. The first song off the record, “Renato Dall Ara (2008)” is filled with trademarks that fans have come to know and love — background gang vocals bombastic drums to just name a few. The airy and sharp snare hits that start of the following song, “Sad Suppers”, also evoke a similar intro to a classic from their debut album, “My Year In Lists”. Examples like these can be found scattered from beginning to end.
As much as Sick Scenes eludes to the group’s past, it also provides tastes of new directions. With it’s acoustic guitar and sparse horn section, “A Slow, Slow Death” gives off a loungey feel a la The Cure’s Mood Swings. In the later half of the record, the three song stretch of “Here’s to the Fourth Time!”, “For Whom The Belly Tolls” and “Got Stendahl’s” showcase a more keyboard driven songwriting style, albeit one that varies wildly between each track.
Lyrically, Los Campesinos! albums have always shared themes and ideas that are seemingly plucked from everyday life. Sick Scenes does not stray from this path. The witty wordplay from lead singer and lyricist Gareth David dictates the highs and lows that come with growing into your 30s. From mental health to traveling back to childhood towns, there is a certain relatable tone that feels like Gareth and the rest of the band are all right there, sitting beside you.
Somehow Los Campesinos! have always managed to float just under the radar. Sure, there have been moments where they have peaked their heads above water (anyone else remember that Budweiser commercial with “You! Me! Dancing!” in it?!), but nothing with a lasting effect. With Sick Scenes they have another record lacking any major holes or soft spots to add to an already impressive catalog. The combination of old and new give longtime fans something to rejoice over as well as giving newer ones the perfect starting point to get to know the seven piece group from Cardiff.