Los Campesinos! proves they're capable of calming down on their latest EP.
With the departure of original drummer Ollie Campesinos! under hazy circumstances, it's tempting to believe this four song EP is something of a goodbye. The music is low key, a comparative solemn whisper when held up against the band's previous output. It's called All's Well That Ends, which can't help.
A recent blog post by the band indicates otherwise, of course. These four re-worked tracks from their recent album, Romance Is Boring are merely a pause while Los Campesinos! considers its next move.
No one could ever accuse Los Campesinos! of sitting still. The prolific band released a pair of albums in a single year, another one year later and maybe ten thousand EPs, singles and random tracks which if nothing else show the merits of collectively focused ADD. And they're all pretty good, especially if fey indie pop delivered wryly is your thing.
On paper it seems an odd notion. Los Campesinos! so often feels as though they're fueled by amphetamines chased down with double espressos, so it's difficult to imagine what might happen when the buzz wears off. All's Well That Ends is what happens, a brief but alluring collection which shows there's more to the band's appeal than pure, unbridled energy.
As a frontman, Gareth Campesinos! has always come off like a snotty parochial schoolboy, a Frankenstein's monster cobbled together from the most irritating pieces all the kids from William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Only he makes it work.
Keeping that image in mind on the EP's opening track, "Romance is Boring (Princess Version)", Gareth's voice is nearly a whisper, as though heard from just outside a fourth floor bedroom as he plots some sadistic scheme. Midway through the number, though, and the whole thing nearly comes undone. The band, acoustic and stripped down, don't know what to do with themselves. It's as though they tossed the version off without considering what might happen when it all gets crazy.
Much more successful is "Letters From Me to Charlotte (RSVP)", which lends itself well to the contemplative pace, the soft harmonies offsetting the harsh verses, the fiddle. "Straight in at 101/It's Never Enough" works as well, pretty much for the same reasons, plus its awkward heavy petting and frustrated inner monologue may actually work even better than in its electrified album version.
"(All's Well That Ends) In Medias Res" proves a more than worthy finish, with piano joining the fiddle and harmonies. Where Los Campesinos!' warmth ordinarily comes from mania, here it's based in sincerity. It's a lovely surprise, one which gently erases the EP's early misstep and brings it all together.