First thing’s first: Los Campesinos! are my favourite band of all time. I’ve spent the last 9 years listening to their music and having it be the soundtrack to my life, the wrestling entrance theme to my greatest moments and the funeral march of my lowest. When a band and their discography becomes such an important part of your life a new album can be a bit of a worry. What if it’s not good? What if it’s too good and the band changes as a result? After nearly 3 and a half years since their fifth album No Blues (easily their longest hiatus between records), Sick Scenes comes with a large weight of anticipation on its shoulders.
First single I Broke Up In Amarante is angry and speaks directly of the time the band spent recording the album in Portugal in June 2016. You can feel the weight of the wait between recording albums here, mixed with the frustration of England’s umpteenth embarrassing international tournament loss and the disheartening results of the EU referendum. It’s clearly LC! (Gareth’s distinctive voice being their USP, both in terms of his singing and his lyrics) but as first single it suggested this might be a different album, something more direct and heavy hitting.
However, this turns out to just be a sign of the sonic diversity on Sick Scenes, thanks to the production work of guitarist Tom Bromley (working for the 5th album in a row with consistent LC! collaborator John Goodmanson) whose tunes only get better with age. The hard hit of …Amarante is followed by the blooming and romantic A Slow, Slow Death (featuring incredible horns and perhaps the ultimate Gareth Campesinos lyrics during the chorus) which in turn segues into the stripped-back vocal led The Fall of Home. Despite the varied styles, the album does feel like a coherent whole, one that gets more ambitious as it goes on.
It’s a relief and a delight to say that LC! have gone 6-0 and produced another gem. An album about aging and trying to find one’s place in it all that feels like an appropriate extension of all they have done before. An album effervescent with feeling; at times mournful, angry and depressed but ultimately one that is joyful and excited for life and what is to come, despite the difficulties along the way. Existing can be challenging but with a band this endlessly vital to soundtrack it, fighting through can be a delight. Sick Scenes maybe isn’t an album that will make LC! your favourite band, but if you’re a fan of them already it might just reaffirm everything you love about them. And there sure is a lot to love.
‘Sick Scenes’ is out February 24th
Words by Lewis Jones