Despite a penchant for ironic melancholy, British indie-pop group Los Campesinos! are typically bright and buoyant, their sprightly sound belying dejected lyrics about romantic insecurity. But in their fourth LP, Hello Sadness, the band greet sadness full on, and their music suffers for it. The record retains their dreadful lyrics, but loses all the associated fun.
Devoid of a single catchy chorus to latch onto, Hello Sadness trickles past the listener like leftover food in the gutters of indie music. Los Campesinos! are known for a hyper-energetic, poppy sound, with bouncy rhythms and frenzied singing. Yet here even the band’s idiosyncratic chimey guitars sound subdued.
Moreover, their lyrics, which are usually atrocious but redeemed by their comedic, ironic quality, have entered the realm of the disturbing and the uncomfortable. What made singer Gareth Campesinos! (band members use “Campesinos!” as their surname) think the phrase “the black bird feasts upon my guts” has a place in a song is anyone’s guess. The record is filled with cringe-worthy lines like “a wishbone hangs between your breasts” in the title track, or “here it comes this is the crux/she vomits down my rental tux” in “By Your Hand.” There’s even mention of psoriasis in “Life is a Long Time.”
The album bears little semblance of the giddy band that in the past played the indie-pop anthem “You! Me! Dancing!” Instead, we are treated to forty minutes of what can only be called monotonous whining. Hello sadness indeed. Melancholy does not suit the band when it’s not offset by spirited instrumentals and a healthy dose of irony. The only ironic thing here is that the record forces one to recall that the band once wrote a song entitled “Death to Los Campesinos!,” and wonder whether this prophecy has now been self-fulfilled.