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A review of...
Sick Scenes by Los Campesinos!
Los Campesinos! return from a long sabbatical, but it's like they never went away
Sick Scenes is Los Campesinos! sixth studio album, and it sees the band blowing off some steam after a four year hiatus between full length releases (their last being 2013's No Blues). This collection is typically upbeat - musically speaking - with lyrics that cut to the grim realities of life in modern Britain. To make matters worse the album was recorded during England's abysmal run at Euro 2016 (although this band have deep Welsh roots, non of the members are actually Welsh, unfortunately for them). The songs that they recorded sound like those of a band from the hazy recent past and there's something quite comforting about that. Los Campesinos! have no problem telling stories in their songs, a skill which seems to have largely gone out of the window in the indie world of now. Often these are stories of life and drinking but lyricist Gareth David also goes deeper than most by addressing mental illness and dependency and sliding towards middle age and responsible adulthood. Non more so than on album closer "Hung Empty" which includes modern urban imagery such as "the students spilling out at the bus stop, forcing me to walk in the street", which manages to be both an apt metaphor for the passage of time and a genuine gripe that I, a man in his mid thirties living in a university town, can relate to. Later all notions of glorifying the boozy rock n roll lifestyle are blown to bits as David laments on continental bottled lager "bring its mouth to my lips...I do not know what i'd do without you" and ends on the bleakest of notes - "what if this is how we die?".
It's not all doom and gloom though, the band have a knack of building you up as well as pushing you down, this is largely due to that aforementioned upbeat rhythms and melodies complete with interesting brass and keyboard flourishes. A good example of this would be the depressingly titled, but ultimately joyous "A Slow, Slow Death" which builds up to a cacophony of feelgood brass at its climax. Another element that helps to lift the album out of grim reality is the fantastic additional vocals from Kim David (sister of Gareth), used sparingly but memorably, they perfectly complement Gareth's lead vocals and Tom Bromley's often beautiful instrumentation, especially on tracks like "The Fall Of Home" which also brings strings into the mix.
Despite their time away, Los Campesinos! seem just as relevant and vital as ever.