No Blues is a really Los Campesinos-y record, which is kind of surprising because the group has been bleeding bandmates ever since their terrific, incredible, magnificent, never-to-be-topped double debut in 2008. We all know that they lost the manic energy that made those first two albums great as they went on, and that’s probably because for a lot of the band, things got bigger than they ever thought they would. After five years and as many albums, Los Campesinos!, you’d think, is down to just the members who really want to make music their careers. And if No Blues is any indication, this isn’t a bad reality.
After my first few listens, I’m inclined to say I liked Hello Sadness more than No Blues, but that may be entirely because having just one lead singer is throwing me off. I mean, Gareth has pretty much been the only lead singer for a while, but this is the first time that a Los Campesinos! album feels like its just his. I like the guy, I like the way he writes pun- and wordplay-heavy lyrics, and even though he doesn’t scream as much anymore, he’s a fine singer. But the album could have really used a “The Black Bird, The Dark Slope.”
The band feels smaller, because, it is. The music feels less rambunctious, because, well, they got older and sadder, I guess. I don’t think anyone who has been paying attention to Los Campesinos! will be surprised by these realities. But the scariest thing of all would be that a band so full of energy and potential could find a way to keep going on. Thankfully, they did.
Favorite Tracks: “For Flotsam,” “What Death Leaves Behind,” “Cemetery Gaits”