Live Music + Gig Reviews

Los Campesinos! @ Spitz, London

5 March 2007

Los Campesinos! Insufferably twee is a phrase that’s difficult to justify. Because, let’s face it, you can take a hell of a lot of twee before suffering. Tweeness is rarely a common factor in cases of extraordinary rendition; it doesn’t often have a starring role breaking the beefcake star of a Hollywood action film: “Do you eshpect me to talk?” “No Mr Bond I expect you to listen to Belle and Sebastian slowly turning the handle on this rather fetching music box with its tiny, tiny ballerina. Would you like a cup of tea?” “Er. Ok, Bloefeld, you win. I’ll talk…”

But Cardiff’s seven-piece Los Campinenos! come close. Particularly when songs end, and the inexorably long banter begins – the content of which would embarrass the scriptwriters of Goodnight, Sweetheart.

“Awesome!”, someone shouts. “Orson?!”, lead singer Gareth Campesinos amusingly mishears. “If you came for Orson fuck off!”. And he laughs, and the crowd laughs, and the dog laughs, and I die a little inside.

But aside from excessive tweeness, shameless mugging for approval, oh, and a line in sickeningly self-deprecating platitudes that’d have Gwyneth Paltrow retching into a bag, what of the music?

Well, it was like watching a youth club Arcade Fire, with all the exchanges that implies: huge, cataclysmic, voice-of-the-Gods organs are out, small tinny glockenspiels are in. Nods towards David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen are history, replaced with strangely teenage fixations on The Cure and The Smiths. Intellectual world-weary angst is shelved, the gap filled with the wordy despair of those who’ve read about it, but not yet done it.

New single You Throw Parties We Throw Knives was thrown out early on, and while it may have a title which couldn’t be more emo if pictures of its genitalia appeared on the Internet, it lacked any sort of identity here, except that of a messy splat of instrumentation, while Don’t Tell Me To Do The Math(s) pulsated like a folk-rock ¡Forward, Russia!, without any of the charm that might suggest.

At least You! Me! Dancing proved that it could semi-work. Swelling their already massed ranks with members of the support acts, it had the same joyous free-spiritedness that their Montrealer peers have perfected in a live setting. It was approaching passable, approaching epic, and could have been a lifting ending to a sub-par evening. But no. Deciding to undo the good work, they carried on for two more tracks, and a likable denouement was cast by the wayside.

Insufferably twee? No. Twee enough to make you want to bathe in Jack Daniels until you’d rinsed the cutesy smell out from your hair? Absolutely.

buy Los Campesinos! MP3s or CDs
Spotify Los Campesinos! on Spotify

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