Los Campesinos!: Sticking Fingers Into Sockets

[1 August 2007]

By Joe Tacopino

Los Campesinos! have all the ready-made ingredients of a trademark indie pop band: uniform stage names, futuristic-disco cartoon cover art, cutesy male/female vocals, a glockenspiel, incredibly catchy guitar riffs, and a Pavement cover song. For once, though, all this schtick actually pays off as these Cardiff college students capture the unfettered exuberance of ‘90s indie rock and infuse it with an infectious dance flavor.

Last year the band, who’s moniker translates to “The Farmers” in Spanish, induced a collective hard-on among bloggers when most of the songs off Sticking Fingers were released on the net. The band had a relatively easy time getting signed to Arts & Crafts who recruited David Newfeld of Broken Social Scene to produce the EP. And perhaps anticipating the obvious accessibility of these songs on the web, Sticking Fingers was released as an “enhanced” CD and includes two videos for “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives” and “You! Me! Dancing!” (ahemm… YouTube).

The two vocalists, Gareth and Aleksandra (both have the designated Campesinos! surname), have a style which is equally distinctive, yet markedly different from one another. Gareth’s twine has the adolescent snarl of Mike Skinner as his declarative delivery scarcely sacrifices his thick British accent. Providing a smooth compliment to Gareth’s semi-obnoxious shouts is Aleksandra’s gentle harmonies. She frequently enters with a welcome flourish on chorus or the bridge, tempering Gareth’s mildly grating whine. 

On the first line of the song “It Started with a Mix” Gareth Campesino! bluntly proclaims how he is “trying to find the perfect match between pretentious and pop”—and he just may just have found it. Sticking Fingers Into Sockets flies by at just 16 minutes, but provides a surprising dose of fun-loving rock, with a only a hint of sarcasm. The energetic opener “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives” is perhaps a 21st century version of “Make Love Not War”. This gloc-inspired pop tune pays homage to Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” while simultaneously describing scenes of a cartoonish war atmosphere with “red stains all over the place”. “It sounded like he’d broken limb,” both singers claim, “each and every time he pushed the key down or in”. The most sufficient song on the effort is the six-plus minute “You! Me! Dancing!” which features a killer guitar riff complemented by the pulsating rhythm rock of—you guessed it—glockenspiels and violins. 

Los Campesinos! are set to release their first full-length in 2008, and let’s hope they haven’t wasted their dewy outlook and energy on this 16-minute masterpiece because in addition to recording an impressive debut EP, Los Campesinos! are also having a good time. So hopefully their snarky lyrics and unobtrusive glocs will combine create a proper full-length next year. “I’ll sing what you like,” Gareth and Aleks explain, “if you shout it straight back at me”. Ok, as far as I’m concerned, you guys have a deal.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/los-campesinos-sticking-fingers-into-sockets/