February 28, 2008

Not the Scene You're Thinking Of

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Los Campesinos!
Hold On Now, Younger

Less than two years ago, a group of Cardiff University students and their friends bonded over a mutual understanding of LiveJournals, music festivals, and Super Furry Animals. Together, they formed Los Campesinos! (“The Peasants!”), and embarked on a journey that has taken them from the student union to transcontinental notoriety in a very short period of time.

Indie bands emerging out from the primordial soup of the internet are no novelty, yet none have been quite as self-conscious about the “scene” which bore them as LC!. On a creative level, they worry about overtly emulating their favorite artists — including a heavy diet of indie pop fare from Architecture in Helsinki to Yo La Tengo — while heaping scorn on what they consider to be the morass of vacuous post-Libertines acts like the View (which isn’t quite as bad as they’d have you think).

Yet a more personal anxiety appears through loquacious indie snob lead singer Gareth Campesino’s anguished-yet-bouncy vocals. Gareth weaves into his professional life as a recorder of music his personal life as a listener of the same. Over 12 hot tracks, you learn how New Year’s resolutions are bullshit, why you shouldn’t trust girls you meet at music festivals to not have boyfriends, and that the club scene in Cardiff is full of assholes.

Indeed, there’s something in the lyrics of Hold on Now, Youngster… that’s just all too relatable-to. In “Knee Deep at ATP,” Gareth bitches about a girl who came up to him at the East Sussex festival because he was wearing a Bikini Kill shirt and neglected to say she had a boyfriend. On the 7th track, whose title is far too long to be reprinted in the space provided, he laughs at young Moz-imitating hipsters who think pretending to be addicted to coffee is a substitute for a real personality and goes on a tirade against would-be writers who leave “reams and reams of half finished novels” lying about their apartments and parrot from Bartleby’s like “a final, fatal LiveJournal entry.”

The centerpiece of the album is “You! Me! Dancing!,” a song which helped the band achieve notoriety last year following its initial release as a single off Sockets. Here, the band rails against the tourists who would come to their favorite bar in Cardiff and dismiss them as scenesters, to which they reply, “And it’s sad that you think that they’re all just scenesters / And even if we were it’s not the scene you’re thinking of,” while working in a dig against “boy band fashions” and “testosterone passion.”

There is, however, a bit of a drawback to LC!’s ambitious lyrical expressionism. Much like the “metapoetry” (a term borrowed from a much better review of this album) of Eddie Argos, LC!’s bouncy lyrics are sometimes so ambiguous to the point of meaninglessness. On one track, Gareth proclaims, “Hopefulness is tantamount to hopelessness.” Well, shit! Ambiguity notwithstanding, the humility and vivaciousness of a well-rehearsed indie pop band whose musical influences read like a 17-year-old girl’s Last.fm profile shines through in this flooring debut. We don’t mind if you guys “can’t dance a single step,” just as long as you can strike it the fuck up.