Los Campesinos!/Hold On Now, Youngster

Liz Dodd 7 February 2008

Sonically located somewhere between tripping in a Hong Kong arcade and a house-party in Pac-Man’s bachelor pad, the debut album from Welsh septet Los Campesinos! is not an album to listen to after ingesting a large amount of caffeine. Hold On Now, Youngster… is probably best listened to while on some kind of multicoloured treadmill. Far from trying to drag all seven members into any musical concord, Los Campesinos! have settled for a discordant free-for-all that, against all musical odds, really works.

Tempting as it is to recoil with jealousy – all seven are still university students, and they’ve titled the track I most wanted to refer to This Is How You Spell ‘HAHAHA, We Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams Of Faux-Romantics’ – their special brand of hyper-pop fills a void between Mike Skinner and I’m From Barcelona that I wasn’t even aware needed filling. Tracks like Drop It Doe Eyes establish a “female vocals-over-syncopation versus punk-male vocals-over-driving-4/4” pattern that counters the crazy in cacophonic tracks like Don’t Tell Me To Do The Math(s), while the whole album emerges layered in challenging tempo, samples, and a veritable who’s who of indie namechecks – spot ‘Meanwhile Back In Communist Russia’ on Don’t Tell Me… Vocals range from screech to whisper, stripping back to reveal bizarre couplets in understated raps.

It’s impossible to get a grasp of where this group are going, and quite how they squeeze such a vivid emotional vocabulary out of an amalgamation of synths, xylophone etc. played quickly and at the same time. Hold On Now, Youngster… is a flamboyant mix of style and substance, hyperactive and complex. Los Campesinos! have earned the right to take themselves seriously, but long may they waive that right in favour of long track titles and glockenspiel solos.

Liz Dodd