Over the course of Los Campesinos’ prolific seven-year career – they have released five albums, two EPs and a live album – the indie pop band from Wales have made a name for themselves due to their constantly evolving sound, which has bounced between the fey and playful twee vibe of their debut album Hold on Now, Youngster…, the manic-depressive quality of 2010’s Romance is Boring or the darkly brooding atmosphere of 2011’s Hello Sadness.
Impressively, Los Campesinos’ sonic changes over the years have never once been jarring, as there has always been the shared commonality of front man Gareth Paisey’s intensely personal, and often humorous, lyrics.
“There is no blues that can sound quite as heartfelt as mine,” declares Paisey on the band’s latest album No Blues.
Though as braggadocious as that claim may be, it is true that no other current rock or pop lyricist is as skilled at expressing his or her feelings of melancholy and sadness quite as articulately and poetically as Paisey. It also helps that he delivers this line with his tongue somewhat planted in his cheek.
Though the lyrics are still often emotionally volatile, the musicianship on No Blues has been tightened and its freneticism dialed down when compared to the group’s previous albums. This consistency in sound allows the songs to stand on their own and not become mere sonic representations of the lyrics’ moods.
Opening track “For Flotsam” benefits from this separation of lyrical tone and the music. Anthemic and propulsive, “For Flotsam” is a song that could have easily been composed as a morose and slow-paced track given the lyrical content, which is rife with sexual frustrations – “Knees knocking and / Blood flowing so / I want you to know / That I want to” – and the failures of past relationships – “Flotsam, Jetsam and Spindrift: all the girls I have loved / Dumped to Earth by a spendthrift / Gilt angels from above.”
Many listeners of No Blues may find themselves wondering if Paisey understands just how awkward his dramatically honest lyrics are.
On “As Lucerne / The Low,” Paisey admits he’s a bit over the top with his feelings but brags about it nonetheless.
“I hum the sorriest tune on the bar at these dives / Send all the patrons running home to make up with their first wives.”
Album highlight “Avocado, Baby” sees Paisey boast that he has “A heart of stone / Rind so tough it’s crazy” and that is why others call him “The Avocado, baby.”
The song is so infectious, with its chorus sung by what sounds like a group of cheerleaders and a beat that would make even the shyest wallflower get up and dance, that even those uninterested in Paisey’s poetic lyrics – “Blood on their hands / From shards of a heartbreak / I have known friends to / Crack from love’s weight / Blossom in ribcage / Until their backs break” – can sit back and admire the song purely on a sonic level. This is actually the case for all ten tracks on the album.
No Blues is Los Campesinos discovering a more mature sound that gives equal attention to the music as well as Paisey’s lyrics. By allowing their songs to exist on their own, to have room to breathe, his lyrics have become more pronounced and meaningful.