REVIEW: LOS CAMPESINOS! – HOLD ON NOW, YOUNGSTER (2008)
Hold On Now, Youngster… (Wichita Recordings/ Arts & Crafts, 2008) is as enjoyable as a young child with a pop-up book bursting with excitement at the sight of a paper castle unfolding before their eyes. Now we all aren’t children and I’m bordering on being an ex-youngster (Ah! Graduation!), but I share that excitement with the indie pop/pop punk gem that is Los Campesinos!’s debut album. With hooks are tighter than a San Francisco street, this Cardiff septet uses everything associated with cute kicked up a notch (the trademark keyboards coupled with glockenspiel says it all). Fronted by girl/guy vocals care of Aleks and Gareth Campesinos!, exclamation point included, the lyrics hold a witty intelligence absent to the majority of indie pop outfits, “You should’ve built a statue, and so I did of you. And you were ungrateful and slightly offended at the dimensions of it. You said you looked less like the Venus de Milo and more like your mother in a straight jacket.” (We Are All Accelerated Readers) The debut is polished by Dave Newfeld who’s work with Broken Social Scene‘s multi-instrumental melodies lends to the clean, yet not blindingly clean, tracks. Indie pop albums have a tendency to drop off halfway through, but Los Campesinos! can string you up and make you dance like a marionette from end to end. You may find yourself losing control, dancing and singing to “I cherish with fondness the day (before) I met you” before shouting out to the number five (My Year In Lists).
The group’s got pure talent (for influences, listen to their interview on Radio 1’s Huw Stevens’ Introducing…). It’s particularly evident on …And We Exhale and Roll Our Eyes in Unison, starting strong with snare drum powered back and forth play of “It’s bad enough you ever used the word as an adjective” “But to suggest we do it in heels is really quite crass” before staggering a build-up towards the ending, “And woe is me, and woe is you. And woe is us, together!” If the band is right in claiming that the opposite of true love is reality, I’m ecstatic they’re part of it. This album will clear away any sadness without wearing down on those ears to outlive any dance shoes you’ve got (or the second snowiest winter on record).
Update (8/1): New 10-track album out October 13th, titled We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, recorded mid-June in Seattle. Since the reviewed album came out earlier this year, and this was announced today, I may have to rethink my Top of 2008 list-with two Los Campesinos! albums to consider! (Now if only they’d return to America soon!)