The Words Within
“But let’s talk about you for a minute, with the vomit at your gullet, from a half bottle of vodka that we’d stolen from the optic. On the back seat of your car because it wasn’t safe to start it, you were ‘far too f***ed to drive’ were the words that you imparted. And the woolen dress that clung so tight, to the contours of your body. And the dead grass stuck to fibers from us rolling in the layby, were passed to dog-hair blankets that protected the bench seat covers, and a crucifix was hung from rear-view mirror by your mother.”
There are some albums that you just have to listen to while reading the lyrics of the songs from the liner notes. Yes, which means you cannot settle for mp3s or other digitally compressed versions of the album and must have the real thing—the CD with the liner notes and all of the lyrics. One of the earliest albums that I remember doing that (reading the lyrics while listening to the music) with was Jethro Tull’s A Passion Play, a concept album that had one long track continuing on both sides of the LP. I remember a friend and I filching the album from his elder sister’s collection—this was in 1973—and listening to it surreptitiously while trying to follow the lyrics that came printed on the inside cover of the vinyl L.P.
Ian Anderson began his vocals on the album with: “Do you still see me even here?” (The silver cord lies on the ground.) “And so I’m dead”, the young man said over the hill (not a wish away). My friends (as one) all stand aligned although their taxis came too late. There was / a rush along the Fulham Road. There was / a hush in the Passion Play. It took us, young teenagers that we were, some time to realise that A Passion Play was about the afterlife journey of one man but we were fascinated by the lyrics nevertheless.
The lyrics that I reproduced at the beginning of this column have nothing to do with either Jethro Tull or Ian Anderson, that band’s quirky, flute-playing Scottish frontman. These are lyrics from Los Campesinos! and their new album (released in January this year) called Romance is Boring. Los Campesinos! are a septet from Cardiff, Wales, and are barely four years old. I hadn’t heard their first two full-lengths, Hold on Now, Youngster… and We are Beautiful, We are Doomed, because I’d read somewhere that they made twee pop (or cute, sickenly sweet songs).
How wrong I was. I picked up Romance is Boring on a whim and from the opening song, In Media Res (the lyrics I mentioned are the opening lines!), I knew that by classifying them as twee pop you couldn’t get farther from truth. Each of the seven members of Los Campesinos! has adopted Campesinos! (which means peasants in Spanish) as their surname (an act that recalls their twee pop days, I guess!) and frontman Gareth, at least from his songs in Romance is Boring, reminds me of a cross between a young Morrissey and The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn. The songs on Romance is Boring are full of lyrics that tell a story, sometimes with a hue of sadness, sometimes laced with acerbic humour. In Media Res ends with: “If you were given the option of dying painlessly in peace at forty-five, but with a lover at your side, after a full and happy life. Is that something that would interest you? Would interest you at all?”
Now, I don’t know about you all, but any album that has those kinds of lyrics for the first song, I will listen to fully. And I did. And I wasn’t disappointed. Romance is Boring has 15 songs and Gareth Campesinos! sings them rather well. He also shouts and screams occasionally. He’s 20-something, after all. That probably also explains why one of the songs, Plan A, is about how he and his girlfriend move to Malta where he becomes a soccer hero and then King of Malta and his (now) wife’s face is on all the currency notes! But even so, it’s a sweet song. Give Los Campesinos! a spin. You won’t regret it.
Three to Tango:
- The Hype Machine: An mp3 aggregator that does the hard work of trawling the net and getting you the best new stuff to listen to.
- The Lover in Me: By Munich DJ/Producer, Moullinex. If you hear influences of Daft Punk, you’re not mistaken.
- Is Love Forever?: If you still haven’t bought Spoon’s Transference, here’s another download to make you decide quickly.