Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 9:05 a.m.
Welcome to "Nothing Not New," a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.
Artist: Los Campesinos!
Title: Romance Is Boring
Release date: January 26, 2010
Label: Arts & Crafts
Before we get into the new Los Campesinos! record, let's dip into the "Nothing Not New" mailbag and see what we can find. Here's what the critics are saying about this young project:
Gimme says: "quite simply you are deaf and have a closed mind."
Jacob says: "THIS PROJECT IS ANNOYING."
Roger says: "You don't know anything about music, do you."
Jeff says: "I liked you better when you were dead."
Thanks for the feedback, everyone, and I hope you keep following me on my -- no, our -- journey in overcoming "aesthetic atrophy." Ideally, we can all learn and grow together as the sands of 2010 pass in the hourglass of our lives.
On to today's "Nothing Not New" . . . Though the exclamation point in their name would have you believe other otherwise, Los Campesinos! is a band to watch, and the seven-piece group from the tiny United Kingdom nation of Wales has released what, to me, sounds like the first great rock 'n' roll record of 2010.
My first impression of the band's third record, Romance Is Boring, was that these guys and gals worship at the feet of the indispensable first-wave post-punk band The Mekons. And that's a good thing. Even though The Mekons have been around since the late '70s, I can't think of many bands that have successfully attempted to adopt their modus operandi: both male and female lead vocals singing lyrics about trying to understand and navigate their own personal politics; giant, anthemic gang vocals; a mish-mash of numerous rock idioms (often employed in the same song); unique instrumentation (horns, violin, percussion, cheap synthesizers) appearing at the most unlikely times; noisy maelstroms deftly mixed with big-time hooks; desperate urgency; anarchy, both musical and philosophical; and a healthy dose of punk emotion and attitude. Yeah, I'm betting The Mekons would be proud of Los Campesinos!
Romance Is Boring is a record filled back-to-front with controlled chaos. Much of the credit has to go to producer John Goodmanson, who pulled off similar feats on two other records I really love, Sleater-Kinney's All Hands on the Bad One and Bikini Kill's Reject All American. What could have been a mess -- a wall of distortion and sound, a war of often disparate-sounding musical ideas -- maintains cohesion and gives each of the seven members equal room to be heard, all while still rocking pretty hard. Can't wait to see these guys live.
If you've heard Los Campesinos!, what's your take on them? I think they've got a lot going on in terms of ideas and talent. And they sound like they've got a lot more heart than some of the other heavily hyped bands I've listened to this year.
Best song: "Romance Is Boring," the closest thing to a single here. There are a lot of good songs on this record, even if their titles are ridiculously pretentious ("A Heat Rash in the Shape of the Show Me State, Or Letters from Me to Charlotte"; "We've Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2; "I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know"; "Coda: A Burn Scar in the Shape of the Sooner State"). Try not to hold it against them.
Deja Vu: A more eclectic, more melodic International Noise Conspiracy
I'd rather listen to: The Mekons' The Mekons Rock 'n' Roll (What? You haven't heard it?)
Tomorrow: The Hot Rats' Turn Ons
The "Nothing Not New" Archives