Romance Is Boring is indie glock rock specialists Los Campesinos!‘ third album in as many years, and the Cardiff based band have released another gem of a collection just in time for Valentine’s Day. But it would take a foolhardy soul to give this as a gift to a potential lover.
The record is crammed full of their trademark bleakly humorous lyrics; lyrics that pick at love like it’s a scab that needs a trip to the clinic to sort out. The lyrical obsessions are imparted over a template that has expanded on their trademark indie rumble. The music on Romance Is Boring is a glorious riot of Technicolor shifting from bellicose strum alongs, via painful headache inducing riffs to almost pastoral string laden middle eights.
The opening track In Medias Re lulls the listener into a false sense of calm. An acoustic guitar sways atop warm organ fills before a dark riff stalks the song. The sound swells, guitars blur, the riff nags away before haemorrhaging into the opening vocal on the record. Within the first minute we have had mentions of vomit, sex in lay-bys, stolen vodka and crucifixes. Welcome to the romantic worldview of Los Campesinos!
Where Alex Turner wraps his lyrics of desire and melancholy in metaphor and innuendo, Los Campesinos! go straight to heart – or rather groin – of the matter. This is stark realism; no punches are pulled, just detailed snapshots of lust, longing, self-loathing and despair. The sound of Art Brut on the morning after a beered-up encounter with Arab Strap.
Despite the subject matter and high octane angst, Romance Is Boring is an uplifting experience. The songs are wrapped in brilliantly sharp melodies and sweet pop dynamics. The Listed Building pulses with gentle brass stabs and ba ba ba girl group backing vocals. The title track mixes some stadium rock drums with a killer low key chord sequence. A sparkling power pop backbeat powers A Heat Rash In The Shape Of The Show Me State; Or, Letters From Me To Charlotte (they still can’t get enough of those huge titles), the song bouncing on a bed of organ drones and a corrosive riff.
The shouty vocals that introduce the duet This Is A Flag. There Is No Wind reappear in the chorus, while the guitar sounds like it’s having a breakdown and the drums clatter like a hangover from Hell. Somehow the disparate pieces coalesce into a whip smart song. The closing track Coda: A Burn Scar In The Shape Of The Sooner State Coda is simply wonderful; the sound of The Beach Boys circa Surfs Up force fed a diet of Deerhoof and Micachu. A breezy melody drifts over candyfloss harmonies that wrap themselves around a bed of static hiss and backwards drums to add up to three minutes of warped sunshine pop.
Romance Is Boring is a triumph, a glistening, breathless success. Musically and lyrically Los Campesinos! are a rare treasure of a band at the peak of their considerable powers.