Though Los Campesinos! has changed its lineup a few times since forming in Cardiff in 2006, the seven-piece Welsh indie pop-rock outfit, known for smart-mouth lyrics and fast-paced hyper-active delivery, is still just as concerned with love and loss as on previous efforts with its latest release, Hello Sadness. The general themes spouting from the lips of frontman Gareth Campesinos! have changed only in that they have become perhaps less frenzied and frantic and more jaded. Gone are the wild whirlwinds of pop-punk hurricanes from the Campesinos!’s younger years—i.e. from releases such as 2008’s Hold On Now, Youngster…—replaced by more thoughtful, observant and melancholic confessions that stay true to the band’s fierce rhetoric but with a more melodic, hook-laden style. Some fans may be disappointed with the shift in sound, but really, the youngsters of Los Campesinos! are done holding on—they’re growing up and finding a middle ground.
Detailing dirty text messages and a naughty encounter that only ends sadly with vomiting right after an invitation to a girl’s house, opener “By Your Hand” juxtaposes the band’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics against bouncing rhythms, video game keyboard melodies and a jointly shouted chorus from many, if not all, of the Campesinos! With a pace that isn’t as hectic, Los Campesinos! shows that it has more to offer than just worked-up indie pop-punk, continuing the new sound with a very Kings Of Leon-ish guitar melody on “Songs About Your Girlfriend,” that bursts into chiming glockenspiels, Gareth’s fervently melodic vocals, banging drums and a driving piano melody. Bidding adieu to courage and welcoming sadness once again, the title track describes a lover’s body to a heavy bass drum that keeps pace with Gareth’s vocals and a short, quick guitar riff, slipping into a chorus full of harsh cymbals and snare drum to match the discouragement of the lyrics.
Los Campesinos! really shows its pop strengths on “The Black Bird, The Dark Slope,” starting with Gareth busting out rushed vocals with simple guitar melodies, then building up into Gareth’s sister Kim Campesinos!’s gentle vocals, which give contrast to his. A chorus of screaming guitars, crashing drums and the siblings’ vocals floating in and out of each other highlighted by appropriately sad violins makes “The Black Bird, The Dark Slope,” a stand-out track of the album, layered with instruments that make it obvious why Los Campesinos! needs all seven members. Similarly, soaring violins and tiered vocals to match on “To Tundra” most starkly contrast Los Campesinos!’s older sound with a much softer, deeper feel as Gareth cries, “Take a body to water/Take a body to tundra/Just take me with you as well.”
The members of Los Campesinos! aren’t quite as young as they were, as evidenced by the more emotional tone of Hello Sadness, but don’t fret. They haven’t lost a bit of the cheeky lyrics and determined instrumentals that made them who they were; they’ve just tweaked it all to suit who they are now—“more 30 than 20,” as Gareth puts it simply.