Semi-old stuff: Hold on Now Youngster…

Aleksandra Campesinos! yells like a mother trying to get her child’s attention from across the street. Gareth Campesinos! also yells, but his yell is more of a consistent, desperate plea. They both sound great doing it, and yes, they both have that silly Campesinos! surname. Everyone in Los Campesinos! does, and I guess that makes them like The Ramones, though the comparison is tenuous beyond that show of solidarity.

Los Campesinos! met in Wales, but are most definitely sons and daughters of a sad and lonely Britain. To be fair, it takes a few listens to sort through their buoyant twee-mo (trademarked!) to realize they’re more Smiths than celebration, and even then, it’s kinda hard to sympathize with their suicidal tendencies. Gareth sounds like he gets too much ass for his own good (“I was sick in my mouth/for fear of the scent of an ex-girlfriend”), and Aleksandra has a very tactical way of showing affection (“send me stationary to make me horny!”). Ultimately, their debut album Hold on Now, Youngster… is about love and pain and the inevitable relationship between the two, and Aleksandra and Gareth use their position behind the microphone to voice their respective (and often mutual) opinions on why they are sad today. I’m not sure if Gareth and Aleksandra ever dated, and I wouldn’t care if they didn’t, because they sound too believable not to have broken each other’s hearts at some point.

But enough of that, because I’ve written too long without mentioning the band’s musicianship, which is excellent. Guitarist Neil Campesinos! deserves much more exposure for producing with one guitar what many bands struggle to accomplish with two. Harriet’s violin fits a lot more like Arcade Fire composition and less like Yellowcard novelty. Ollie keeps up on the drums despite Aleksandra’s ideas flying at equal speed in all directions, and even Gareth contributes on a glockenspiel that doesn’t sound terrible (which is a terrific accomplishment considering my low opinion of that instrument).

As a unit, they sound like the inside of my twenty-year old brain, and I imagine many well off but confused twenty-somethings feel the same way. They compose all of their songs with a well-organized mania, refusing to come down from a bipolar high (the low comes in later albums) like students who refuse to take their Adderall, bless them. Songs like “Broken Heartbeats (Sound Like Breakbeats)” and “Don’t Tell Me To Do The Math(s)” jangle their guitars with high-functioning ADHD, managing to coolly slip in a Jane Eyre admonishment and an unexplained meditation on Spiderman. And just when the band falls comfortably into to its own indie-dance comfort zone on the enthralling “You! Me! Dancing!” they respond quite pleasantly with “…And We Exhale and Roll Our Eyes In Unison,” which might be the most spastic waltz ever composed. If you choose to ignore Gareth’s challenging lyrics entirely (and I wouldn’t blame you if you do), many giggles and funsies can still be had being washed over Los Campesinos! post-pre-post-punk melodic nonsense.

But I implore you not to ignore Gareth’s lyrics, because they’re brilliant. Too brilliant to be dissected, in fact. To spare trouble, I have isolated chosen lines and arranged them into four helpful categories.

Uncomfortably personal declarations

“And I know he took you to the beach/I can tell by the way you bite your cheek/every time the sand falls from your insoles.”

“And I spent the last seven years perched on my bed/scratching ‘I am incredibly sincere’ into my forearm.”

“I hate the smell of coffee on your breath/and I hate to feel its warmth against my neck.”

Unexplained absurdities

“I see songs in shapes and colors/not nuclear physics or pottery ovens”

“I’ll swap the bruising for a bumping sensation/I’ll be Ctrl-Alt-Deleting your face with no reservation”

“And no more conversations about which Breakfast Club character you’d be/I’d be the one that dies/(No one dies)/Well then, what’s the point?”

Playtime with words

“…and every sentence that I wrote began and ended in ellip…sis…”

“A small thanks note written in French is no shorthand for ‘this thing gave me writer’s cramp’”

Wisdom: sad, and accurate

“If this sentimental movie marathon has taught us anything/it’s the opposite of true love is as follows: reality!”

“Oh well if the smaller picture’s the same as the bigger picture/you know that you’re fucked”

“The trails on your skin spoke more to me than reams and reams of half-finished novels you’d leave lying all over the place.”

“I’m taking far too many chances/on these less than idealistic romances.”

Pretty cool, huh? Poetic, even? Well, I certainly think so.

I like this album so much that I can’t find anything to criticize. The only plausible critique I can think of is that the album won’t have staying power, especially when I become older and more susceptible to logical schools of thought. That’s entirely fair, but for now, I’m a fifth of a century old and much more interested in seeing if Hold On Now Youngster… follows the most unimpeachable rules of punk. Shall we?

1. Sex is not beautiful

Check! (“This Is How You Spell ‘HAHAHA We’ve Destroyed The Hopes And The Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics”)

2. Everything is inherently worthless

Check! (“And We Exhale and Roll Our Eyes in Unison”)

3. Louder and faster is better

Check-plus! (“Death to Los Campesinos!”)

4. Help the poor

Well, no. But though nothing here is political, I can’t imagine any of the Campesinos! clan as a registered Tory.

5. Be like who you are when no one is watching

Check! Every single song blares this philosophy.

My friend who introduced this band to me said, “It’s not the greatest music ever made, but it’s really fun!” And though I see where this statement comes from (no one will ever confuse this for Astral Weeks, for instance), I can’t shake the feeling but to ask, why not? It’s been my go-to album for months now, probably because it addresses quite efficiently the 50-50 relationship I and many of my peers have with inexplicable sadness and limitless pep. I can’t think of an album I have ever experienced that best exemplifies the right now than this one. And sure, that may mean I hold it in a much higher regard than anyone else I recommend it to, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask my avid reader(s) to give it a spin. I’ve already given it a few dozen.


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