When we last checked in with Los Campesinos!, the Welsh indie pop septet was exploring darker sonic territory. On 2010's Romance Is Boring, they added brooding song structures that departed from the frenzied twee-punk of earlier records, murky meanderings that were like cough syrup compared to their signature sugar rush and demonstrated the band's willingness to try new things.
On Hello Sadness (Wichita Records), the band melds the old and new, speeding up the tempo when it suits and slowing it down when they feel like it, too. Los Campesinos! can both create songs that would fit it with any party-prone Architecture In Helsinki fan or any forlorn Smiths dabbler. Album opener "By Your Hand" sets the tone of things to come: a complicated mix of variegated instrumentation and sentiment that retains a sneering-punk attitude amid multiple solos and a wall-of-sound backdrop.
Lines like "Your blue eyes are like the deepest and the warmest seas" on "Life Is A Long Time" " come off as maudlin, but are rescued by follow-up lines like "And with the water and the Cypriot sun, would your psoriasis bleach and be gone?" The band is love-struck, sure, but always manage to travel just wide of over-earnestness, often merging the romantic with the macabre and decidedly unromantic, as in "Songs About Your Girlfriend" with its combination of amorous and dark imagery — "I christen all the ships that sail on your little kisses' saliva trail" next to "I kissed her every inch, my god the girl looked like she'd burned." The track features glockenspiel like any good twee group and a hyper-kinetic pace like any good punk group.
The continued experimentation with gloominess distinguishes Los Campesinos! from their contemporaries and makes for satisfying listening. In all, Hello Sadness is a solid addition to their repertoire. It's not necessarily a step forward, but it’s not a step back, either.
3 and 1/2 Stars