It’s almost as if Los Campesinos! were put on Earth specifically to make us feel good about ourselves. Their incredibly strong debut of euphoric, mind-numbing sounds clashing with emotion-laced, often times depressive narratives on life’s cruel realities reminded the world of music’s true power – not just as a form of entertainment or some pleasuring sounds that help block out the racket during the subway ride home, but as a cleverly crafted blend of rhythms and sounds that have the ability to make everything seem ok, even when it’s not.
So perhaps it’s only appropriate that in the midst of one of the world’s most depressing times, with a never-ending war and an economic crisis battling for room on the front page each and every day, that just eight months after the release of Hold on Now, Youngster…, the Cardiff natives are ready to give it another go with We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed.
Two seconds is all it takes before the pulsating blend of guitars and keyboards kick off the album’s opener, “Way To Make It Through The Wall”. By the time the Rivers Cuomo meets Tokyo Police Club vocals of frontman Gareth Campesinos! takes over, it’s pretty evident that not much has changed in the band’s style or mentality. The dueling vocal interplay between Gareth and Aleksandra Campesinos! behind an eclectic mix of instruments ranging from bells to violin ultimately confirms this suspicion and foreshadows what will be another 30+ minute roller coaster of emotions that certainly requires a seat belt.
Subdued bells decrescendo before leading way to “Miserbella”, one of the album’s unique tracks. It’s still everything Los Campesinos!, but the chaotic clashes and rifts are often withheld in favor of an Issac Brock-like spoken word and and a glorious horn part, which help set the stage for a powerful collective moment of cheers to close the song, a moment that would even make Broken Social Scene proud. It’s the type of song that makes the lyrics and message all that more real, more believable, and ultimately, another example of the seven-piece outfit using the brilliance of music music to override a depressing examination of life.
The album’s title track marks a return the band’s norm party-friendly sound, but with a more grungy, Pavement feel, echoed in the presence of distorted guitars. Add in the best line in the entire album, “Oh, we kid ourselves, there’s future in the fucking, But there is no fucking future,” and a raw feeling serves as backdrop behind some more doom and gloom. But as is the case with every Los Campesinos! selection, the music grows louder, the electricity expands, and by the end of “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed”, the band’s hyperactive collection of marching band meets garage band sounds all but turns that frown upside down, so to speak.
It’s the same doom and gloom ass kicking that made the band so brilliant, so identifiable in its debut, that remains the central component of We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed. In fact, in reality, give or take a few style changes and instrumental experimentation here or there, Los Campesinos!’s sophomore effort could easily have been packaged with Hold on Now, Youngster… for an epic collection of feel good music. There’s is little variation between the two records – the themes remain depressing, the music is still exhilarating, and once again, the the Welsh outfit has delivered a perfect remedy for a rainy day.
Is that a bad thing?
In most cases, especially when dealing with all the pressures and expectations that accompany album #2, a band would be criticized for essentially delivering a redux, rather than a brand new story. But when it comes to Los Campesinos! in a time when their albums transcends beyond the musical aspect and helps facilitate a few good feelings amidst all the bad ones, it’s hard to fault them. Even if a few of We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed’s tracks are no more than glorified b-sides, even if “It’s Never That Easy Though, Is It? (Song For The Other Kurt)” sounds just like “Drop It Doe Eyes”, even if the acoustic-friendly “Heart Swells/Pacific Daylight Time” offers the only real true curve ball on the entire album, the mere fact that the band’s second full-length album has the ability to put a smile on your face allows it to remain an appealing piece of work.
How much longer will Los Campesinos! be able to get away with this? Only time will really tell, but for now, I’m more content with just sitting back, turning up “The End Of The Asterisk”, and letting the good times roll in.