All the great bands have that one song that defines them in the public consciousness. Be it 'Bohemian Rhapsody', 'Stairway To Heaven', or 'Mr. Brightside'. For Los Campesinos! that song is 'You! Me! Dancing' from their debut album Hold On Now, Youngster. Wisely they have never sought to match it, for they never could.
To be honest, I had lost interest in the band until Sick Scenes appeared. They've not made any bad albums per se, but for a while there it was diminishing returns from the Cardiff University alumni. I'm loathe to use the term "return to form", with the barely veiled insult that it carries, but this is certainly a reawakening for the band, and for my relationship with them.
Sick Scenes doesn’t sound like Hold On Now, Youngster but it has the same vibe, albeit matured a little. The instrumentation and production are light and airy, and the songs are consistently intriguing; each different from the last but with an obvious familiarity.
The album has an inauspicious beginning in 'Renato Dall'Ara (2008)' with lead singer Gareth David rhyming “all-dayer” with “pay her”. However, compensation comes swiftly when the subject of the song becoming a Community Support Officer:
“let me level this as an indictment //only a part-time grass //but a full-time asshole”.
It's that level of punchy linguistic candor that sets Los Campesinos! apart from the throng. 'Sad Supper' could have been the lead single but instead, it was 'I Broke Up In Amarante' – and justifiably so. Hook after hook assault the listener, and every time you think that it has peaked, the band find a higher gear. It seems impossible that such an epic tune is only three minutes long. The highlight is when Gareth David asks for help from the other vocalists for the final chorus.
‘A Slow, Slow Death’ and ‘The Fall Of Home’ form a mid-album slow set before ‘5 Flucloxacillin’ picks up the pace again with a "peloton of OAPs crashing in my slipstream”, one of the many sporting allusions we've come to expect from LC. 'Got Stendahl's' uses Hot Chip's combination of emotional lyrics and dance music played with live instruments. 'A Litany Heart Swells' is an epic anthem type tune, similar in style and tone to Arcade Fire circa Neon Bible. 'Hung Empty' is a suitably euphoric conclusion to Los Campesinos!' most consistent record.