Critical Voices: Los Campesinos!, Hello Sadness

November 17, 2011

Welsh indie-pop band Los Campesinos! has just put out their fourth album in four years. While some artists choose to evolve their sound dramatically between each release, Los Campesinos! have opted to stay more or less the same. Hello Sadness is in many ways the same album as the band’s first effort, Hold on Now Youngster—lead singer Gareth Campesinos! is still rambling through eclectic lyrics about love and loss.
Reportedly written after a breakup, Hello Sadness finds Gareth putting his angst and despair into his songwriting. The maturity of the lyrics yields to the classic Campesinos penchant for failing to stick to one topic—on any given Campesinos song, interjections amidst the main message of the song are expected.
The band also continues to use (or overuse) dissonant sounds. The combination of these elements creates a jarring sound that separates Los Campesinos! from the more cheery British indie pop of Belle & Sebastian or The Kooks. However, in this case, it is a deviation for the worse.
Hello Sadness is old fare. From the opening vocal harmonies of “By Your Hand” to the album closer “Light Leaves, Dark Sees Pt. 2,” there’s minimal evidence of musical progress. If anything, the story of Hello Sadness is of a prolific band putting out albums annually when they should be refining and fine-tuning. But to fans’ dismay, Los Campesinos! treats us to an album we’ve already heard.
Any attempts to break out from their signature style fall flat. Los Campesinos!’s inability to nail anything other than meandering lyrics over guitar riffs probably explains the lack of creativity. However, it fails to explain why they’re still putting music out.  The real tragedy of Hello Sadness is not Gareth’s lady troubles, but rather that of a band that seems to be stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque cycle of musical output.
If, for some reason, Los Campesinos! leave you wanting more of the exact same, then Hello Sadness will satisfy.  But for everyone else, do yourself a favor and just say goodbye.

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