Sunday, November 01, 2009

Los Campesinos!

'Difficult' is a word which easily springs to mind when you consider Los Campesinos!. After all, frontman Gareth allegedly became a vegan because it would be more difficult being a vegetarian. Fitting seven people onto a stage as small as the Relentless Garage's is difficult, but adding an eighth just ratchets the trickiness up a little more. And taking all of the indie pop sounds that characterised your first album out of your third one, well, that just keeps things interesting, doesn't it.

There are three reasons why Los Campesinos are playing tonight. One is to reintroduce themselves to a British audience, having spent most of the year touring in North America. A second is to introduce new keyboardist/vocalist Kim. And a third is to preview new album 'Romance is Boring'. The first of these objectives is resoundingly achieved – the Garage is packed with an audience which seems to be approximately half die-hard loyalists and half intrigued newcomers. Not only do none of them leave before the end, almost none of them even visit the bar during the band's set.

The second objective is less easy to judge. Kim stands wide out on the right of the crowded stage and yet somehow seems to be detached from the rest of the band. Sound problems mean that her vocals are almost inaudible at times. The important thing, though, is that no-one in the crowd seems to disapprove of her being there, which isn't always the way when a band's line-up changes (witness the difference of opinion among die-hard Cure fans when ex-roadie Perry Bamonte joined the band).

As for 'Romance is Boring', well, it is noticeable how three of the four tracks previewed tonight push further the route taken on second album 'We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed', with only the title track retaining the pop sensibilities and the rest being driven by Ellen's bass and the chiming guitar work of Tom. In fact, even allowing for the newness of the songs, there is an odd stillness to the crowd when they are played, as if actually dancing would be in some way disrespectful.

In fact, there is an exponential increase in the reaction which a song gets according to how old it is, with particular affection being reserved for 'You! Me! Dancing!' and set closer 'Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks'.

The band themselves are on fine form for a group of people who were diagnosed with swine flu 24 hours later, though just how many people Gareth infected with his frequent forays into the audience is anyone's guess. And when was the last time you saw a band where the security team had more trouble keeping the singer on the stage than the crowd off it?


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