Live Music + Gig Reviews

Los Campesinos! @ KOKO, London

25 February 2010

When their third long player Romance Is Boring was leaked online nearly three months before its February release, Los Campesinos! frontman Gareth vented his fury very publicly.

He spoke of the emotional rollercoaster the band endured in recording the album, how angry he was when he found out it had been splashed all over the internet… and of wanting to punch the person who leaked it square in the jaw.

But the Gareth on stage tonight couldn’t be further removed from the sensitive indie boy who wrote a bitter, venomous rant of a blog back in December.

The new eight-piece Los Campesinos! recently underwent a change in personnel which has seen long-term keyboardist and singer Aleks leave the band to go back to university; he is replaced by Gareth’s sister Kim and touring guitarist Rob ‘Sparky Deathcap’. They’ve gelled instantly and, after whipping his hood down a couple of tracks into the set, Gareth seems genuinely excited to be playing in the grand former theatre and showers thanks on the crowd.

The bulk of tonight’s set comes courtesy of their latest release, which came out just a few weeks ago, but for the devoted masses they sound like old friends already. In Los Campesinos! land, even the classics have a sense of awkwardness about them. They’re anxious but excited, nave but all knowing slices of twee indie-pop with over-riding punk chants – a mass of contradictions that encapsulate the confused, hormonal heart of the band.

The new album’s title track is a highlight, along with singles There Are Listed Buildings and Straight In At 101. These tracks mark a distinct progression for the band – they’ve got far muckier things to think about than stationery and dancing nowadays. Gareth’s mind is as cluttered with ideas as ever, and while the undertone of sexual frustration might be more apparent, it’s not at the expense of laugh out loud snippets of bittersweet lyrical brilliance – “I think that we need more post-coital and less post-rock, feels like the build up lasts forever, but you never touch my cock” Gareth sings with an almost violent energy.

The oldies get a good innings too. My Year In Lists and Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks are particularly on the money, but there’s one song everyone’s waiting for. They could release a thousand albums but Hold On Now, Youngster’s You! Me! Dancing! would remain their mission statement, and the packed-out crowd at KOKO knows it. The opening, droning chords of the minute-and-a-half long intro send them into a fury and, by the time their trademark glockenspiel kicks in, security are pulling skinny t-shirt clad fans away from the edges of the old theatre boxes.

On stage they’re having just as much fun and Gareth’s performance is as energetic and impassioned as it’s ever been, but he can’t seem to let his new, controversial persona lie. “Can I just get something off my chest?” he asks. “It was the NME Awards last night and we were nominated for ‘best blog’. I don’t know if you saw but Radiohead won it. I’m not being funny, but Radiohead’s blog isn’t very good. It any of you see Thom Yorke, will you tell him I want that award… within five working days!”

Leaving the stage, Gareth issues yet more thanks, saying how much he’s enjoyed himself and pleading with the crowd to keep the faith and “not make us have to go and get proper jobs”. Judging by tonight’s show, there’ll be no trip to the job centre just yet.

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More on Los Campesinos!
Los Campesinos! – Sick Scenes
Los Campesinos! @ Heaven, London
Los Campesinos! – No Blues
Los Campesinos! @ Islington Assembly Hall, London
Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness