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Music / Los Campesinos!

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"I cannot emphasize enough that my body is a badly designed, poorly put together vessel
harbouring these diminishing, so-called "vital" organs
hope my heart goes first
Los Campesinos!, "We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed"

Los Campesinos! are an indie pop band from Cardiff, Wales (although most of their members are from England).

The band is a seven-piece, all of whom have adopted the shared last name "Campesinos": Gareth (vocals, lyrics), Tom (guitar), Neil (guitar), Kim (vocals, keyboards), Rob (various instruments), Matt (bass) and Jason (drums). The band initially included singer/keyboardist Aleksandra, but she left the band amicably in 2009 and was replaced by Gareth's sister Kim. Original drummer Ollie left in early 2010 and was replaced by Jason, the band's tour manager and - to an extent, Rob (who had been touring with the band as an additional musician for about a year). A third original band member, violinist and keyboardist Harriet, left the band in September 2011 to continue her studies. A fourth, bassist Ellen, left the band in December 2012 to focus on her writing career, among other projects; The band waited until 2014 to introduce Matt, her replacement.

Although the band received considerable buzz and attention for their 2007 single "You! Me! Dancing!", they never quite found another mainstream breakthrough moment. They have, however, retained an intensely devoted cult following and their critical acclaim, with all six of their albums receiving solid reviews. Over the course of their career, they have moved from their early twee-pop sound to a noisier, indie rock sound that puts an emphasis on their tight musicianship and lead singer Gareth's wry, darkly humorous and self-effacing lyrics.


Studio albums:

  • Hold On Now, Youngster... (2008)
  • We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed (2008)
  • Romance is Boring (2010)
  • Hello Sadness (2011)
  • No Blues (2013)
  • Sick Scenes (2017)

Other releases:

  • Sticking Fingers into Sockets EP (2007)
  • All's Well That Ends EP (2010)
  • A Good Night for a Fist Fight live album (2013)
  • A Los Campesinos! Christmas EP (2014)
  • Whole Damn Body rarities compilation (2021)

Los Campesinos! provides examples of these tropes!

  • Album Title Drop: We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, Romance Is Boring and Hello Sadness all feature one within each album's title track. A Good Night For A Fist Fight's album title comes from the song "By Your Hand," No Blues' comes from the song "As Lucerne/The Low," and Sick Scenes comes from the song "Here's to the Fourth Time!" The All's Well That Ends EP has one from a bonus verse in an updated version of "In Medias Res" (which was listed in the lyrics of the Romance is Boring version, but is drowned out by distortion and instrumentation).
  • Almighty Janitor: Gareth, for a time, worked as a part-time groundskeeper of a local church's cemetery when the band wasn't touring, a job which he told Pitchfork makes him "incredibly happy" to do.
  • Animated Music Video: Both of the videos for "We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives" and "You! Me! Dancing!" are animated with the same general animation style and seem to share the same continuity, with the ending shot of the former being the starting shot for the latter.
  • Anti-Love Song: A good number of their songs revolve around relationships, but either they end poorly or are accompanied with mediocrity or even flat-out vitriol. One of their best examples is "Romance is Boring":
    We are two ships that pass in the night!
    You and I, we are nothing alike!
    I am a pleasure cruise, you are gone out to trawl,
    Return nets empty, nothing at all.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Doe eyes" has been a long-lasting term frequently mentioned in their songs.
      • Eyes are a recurring theme in "Hello Sadness," and the phrase "sad eyes" appears in the last three song songs on the album: To Tundra ("We take on the burden of all these sad-eyed children, with lilies bunched in our hands"), Baby, I Got the Death Rattle ("One look in my sad eyes, she had to concede"), and Light Leaves, Dark Sees Pt. II ("But they request that I leave 'cause my sad eyes are too much to bear").
    • "Heart Swells" and "Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown" have labeled various songs in a semi-Thematic Series sort of way.
  • Association Football: Pops up a lot in song lyrics, since everyone in the band (but especially Gareth) is a fan. By the time of No Blues where Gareth decided to allow himself to be esoteric as he wanted, he makes many European football references that tend to be really obscure if you're not a fan, such as "We connected like a Yeboah volley" from "Glue Me". He also likes comparing disappointing tournaments to disappointing relationships, such as in "I Broke Up In Amarante" (which mirrors his feelings towards Euro 2016, which he considered "largely terrible"), and "Every Defeat is a Divorce (Three Lions)" (in which he compares a divorce to the lions on the English National Football logo coming to life and clawing him to death.)
  • Author Appeal: Again, football. Gareth writes a lot about it, with his personal favorite lines being semi-obscure Association Football references. The band has a verified Genius account to help explain some of the more of the esoteric ones.
  • Band of Relatives: Type 1. Gareth and Kim Campesinos! are brother and sister.
  • Break-Up Song: The band has lots of these. "Straight in at 101" seems to be a tongue-and-cheek version of a first-hand account of a really awkward, possibly selfish breakup following a bad sexual encounter.
    So baby, all apologies,
    It was going to happen, inevitably
    And if it helps, I mean, even slightly at all
    It's best to dust yourself down and get straight back on the horse.
  • Bring Me My Brown Pants: During the video for "You! Me! Dancing!," when the Kaiju appears, starts vaporizing the army and destroying the city, the ground units promptly soil themselves.
  • The Bus Came Back: Aleksandra appears on the band's 2013 live album A Good Night for a Fist Fight, singing on "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks". The album was recorded during Ellen's last show as a member of the band in December 2012, three and a half years after Aleks initially left the band.
  • Call-and-Response Song: "The International Tweexcore Underground" is a back-and-forth between a twee fan and a Punk, each one standing up for their respective cultures and harshly criticizing the other.
  • Call-Back: The outro to "Here's to the Fourth Time!" from Sick Scenes has the line "Call it 'The Time Before the Last Time!'", which was the name of a song from No Blues.
  • Careful with That Axe: Gareth suddenly screams the last line of the page quote from "We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed," as well as his line during the chorus of "Ways to Make it Through the Wall." It's especially noticeable during live performances to the point of near-incomprehensibility.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: Averted, probably on purpose, with their cover of Heavenly's famed duet with Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening, "C Is the Heavenly Option". That is, Calvin Johnson's part is sung by the female Aleksandra, and Heavenly guitarist Amelia Fletcher's part is sung by the male Gareth. Gareth has said in an interview that it was mainly because he wanted to do Amelia's spoken/rapped breakdown.
  • Cover Version: A favorite of the band for B-sides early in their career. Aside from the cover of Heavenly's "C is the Heavenly Option", they also recorded covers of "Frontwards" by Pavement, "Yr Boyfriend" by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, "The Eyebright Bugler" by Deerhoof and "Police Story" by Black Flag.
  • Crossover: A rather inexplicable one in the music video for "5 Flucloxacillin," which is framed as an episode of the British TV program Bargain Hunt.
  • Darker and Edgier: While they still have quite a few poppier numbers on their more recent albums, they're far more noisier and lyrically dense than their earlier songs. Compare 2006's "It Started with a Mixx" to 2010's "This is a Flag, There is No Wind" to 2013's "Cemetery Gaits".
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Explored in "There Are Listed Buildings," in which a girl lets the narrator hang around her while she looks for a fulfilling relationship. She's stressed out that she can't find one, and she recognizes that it might actually be because of the narrator, until she frustratedly settles for the close Nice Guy than nothing at all, and the two are willing to give it a try.
  • Driven to Suicide: In the music video for "By Your Hand" and seemingly attempted in the video for "Avocado, Baby."
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: While Los Campesinos! has always circled around Indie Pop, Sticking Fingers into Sockets and Hold on Now, Youngster... are far, far more along the lines of upbeat twee pop. Everything since has sounded far more mature and more emotional, if not occasionally noisy. This is an unusual case of this trope, given that their early poppier material is perhaps their best known work.
    • In particular, Hold On Now, Youngster... was released just eight months before We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed introduced the sound that they would continue pursuing from there on out. Youngster largely contained songs that the band had been performing for years, while Doomed included songs that they wrote specifically for the album.
  • Either/Or Title: "A Heat Rash in the Shape of the Show Me State; or, Letters from Me to Charlotte"
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: The first 1:42 of "You! Me! Dancing!", a gradually building wall of noise before the main riff hits. The sense of anticipation it gives off was used nicely (in abridged form) in an advertisment for Budweiser beer.
  • Fade Out: "Baby I Got The Death Rattle" has one.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: A good chunk of the soldiers in the video for "We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives" are these, expendability and all.
  • Genre Shift: They had a poppier sound on Sticking Fingers into Sockets and Hold On Now, Youngster..., but then band's music got darker and noisier on their next few albums. Early Word of God had it that Hello Sadness was to be a slight return to their early poppy sound, but instead it wound up being the darkest album they ever released.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Much of Sick Scenes seems to hinge around this theme, with many songs revolving around growing anxiety with the world, nostalgia for things slowly breaking down, and a general quarter-life crisis, but done through a still-lively, self-aware and mature perspective.
  • Hidden Track: Hold On Now, Youngster... contains an unlisted track, the largely instrumental "2007: The Year Punk Broke (My Heart)" as its 12th song. The band claims its supposed to be an epilogue and not an actual song on the album, hence it being an unlisted, separate track and not hidden after the 11th song.
    • On the vinyl release of the album, the song is included on a separate 10" disc.
  • Hope Springs Eternal: A key lyric in the chorus of the Title Track for Hello Sadness.
  • In Medias Res: The name of the first song on Romance is Boring. The first line of the song "...But let's talk about you for a minute" suggests that the song itself begins in medias res.
  • Instrumentals: "Between an Erupting Earth and an Exploding Sky" from We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed and "200-102" from Romance is Boring are purely instrumental. "2007: The Year Punk Broke (My Heart)," Hold On Now, Youngster...'s Hidden Track is almost one, only having vocals for the first 30 seconds out of 4 and a half minutes.
  • Insistent Terminology: The band and their label originally claimed We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed wasn't their second album. They initially called it an "EEP", an "Extended Extended Play". Wikipedia calls it a "mini-album" instead. Gareth eventually relented to calling WABWAD their second album:
    I annoyed a lot of people by insisting for a number of years that it was an EP. However, these days, I myself get annoyed when long term fans say 'actually, it's an EP', because I want to be able to say that 'my band has released six albums' not 'my band has released five albums' because it makes us seem like we've been more important for longer. - Gareth in Noisey, 2017.
  • Intercourse with You: A few of their songs mention sex as a major element, such as "Straight in at 101" and "Here's to the Fourth Time!", but Los Camp being the way they are, it usually ends up very sad.
  • Lighter and Softer: Starting from around No Blues or possibly Hello Sadness, the band's sound has overall become cleaner and livelier, and their themes less maudlin and depressing, though they still retain their contemplative lyrical density.
  • List Song: "My Year In Lists" is a bit of a subversion, as the singer "declines" the request to compile a list.
  • Live Album: As listed above, A Good Night For A Fist Fight documents Ellen's last show with the band in November 2012.
  • The Lost Lenore: Quite a few of the songs across multiple albums, such as "The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future", "Coda: A Burn Scar in the Shape of the Sooner State" and "Hate For the Island" are all about to how the narrator's lover is either suicidal, dying, or already dead, and how it affects the narrator, though it's unclear if these are all referring to the same set of characters.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The band's discography has always had somewhat macabre or depressingly contemplative lyrics that seem jarring when put next to their usually upbeat instrumentation. It's became slightly less prominent and more fitting starting around as the music itself became darker, but pops up again every once in awhile.
    • By the time of No Blues and Sick Scenes, the band has seemed to reach a sort of a halfway point. The lyrics have grown much more self-aware and reflective, more humorous than visceral, and the music itself has gotten cleaner and slightly more diverse, both likely a result of the band having grown by a decade at this point.
  • Mood Whiplash: Near the end of Romance is Boring, the subdued, melancholy, and somewhat bleakly-ended "The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future" is immediately followed by the much more upbeat "This is a Flag, There is No Wind," with all the bandmates happily shouting "Can we all please just calm the fuck down!?"
  • Non-Appearing Title: Quite a few. Among them are "Death to Los Campesinos!", "Plan A", "Who Fell Asleep In", "It's Never That Easy Though, Is It? (Song for the Other Kurt)" and "Knee Deep At ATP"
    • Astonishingly averted with "This Is How You Spell 'HAHAHA, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics'"
  • Once for Yes, Twice for No: The final lines of "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks"
  • The Oner: The music video for "Avocado, Baby."
  • Other Common Music Video Concepts: "Death to Los Campesinos!" is one of the "In The Studio" ones...until the band starts being attacked (and killed) by flowers, rainbows, kittens and ribbons. Apparently, it was made as band's reaction to being pigeonholed and dismissed as a "twee band."
  • Purple Prose: Many of Gareth's lyrics, especially later on, use a lot of wordplay, ornate metaphors and references that have varying levels of obscurity (from European football to Roman mythology and astronomical constellations) that, while not too distracting, can be hard to decipher. Gareth seems completely aware of this, though, and even references this trope in "As Lucerne/The Low":
    "My prose is purple, but not as pretty as Lucer-er-er-erne!
    For sweet nothings from the lips of a gargoyle, nobody ever yearned."
  • Punk: Was always a light part of their aesthetic, sharing some of the visual style in a few promotional images and the general philosophy in frustration with the world. This was prominent even back in their "Hold On Now, Youngster..." days, with "International Tweexcore Underground" being a back-and-forth between Indie Pop fan and a punk, making references to prominent figures for each genre. Amusingly, one of the B-sides for that song was a completely straight cover of Black Flag's "Police Story."
  • Religion Rant Song: Possibly a Type 2 version with "We've Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)," though it could just be the narrator talking about a girl and her body:
    "I've learned more from toilet walls than I've learned from these words of yours
    Your feelings are buried in scriptures and fictions,
    it's all in the words, but I'm here for the pictures..."
  • Rock Star Song: The first verse of "Songs About Your Girlfriend" comes across as a tongue-in-cheek version of this, which according to Gareth, were slightly adapted from rapper T.I.'s hit single "What You Know" .
    "You do not like us 'cause your girlfriend likely does, and all her friends agree on her soft spot for me, I'll have my hard hands over her soft spots soon, you will see"
  • Scatting: "Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats" briefly features some in the second verse.
  • Self-Deprecation: Lots of it in various lyrics (see the page quote for one example), but it comes to the forefront during Gareth's between-song stage banter on A Good Night For a Fistfight:
    "This was a single, which means either it was a really popular song, or we released the wrong song as a single. I think we all know which we're more likely to do."
    • During the music video of "5 Flucloxacillin" as Gareth's Bargain Hunt team is scouring through vinyls, they come across their own Hold On Now, Youngster.... Gareth's reaction is to ashamedly facepalm.
  • Sequel Song: An odd case where the sequel came out before the original — Hello Sadness ends with "Light Leaves, Dark Sees Pt. II", while "Pt. I" was only later released through the Heat Rash zines (and later on the Whole Damn Body compilation). Both are sentimental love songs that reuse the refrain of "when the light leaves, the dark sees", "Pt. I" being upbeat, cheerful, and optimistic, while "Pt. II" is much slower, maudlin, and bittersweet.
  • Ships That Pass in the Night: Invoked - The bridge of "Romance is Boring" provides one of the trope's page quotes.
  • Shout-Out: The band tends to make references from all over the place, from musical inspirations to obscure European football history.
    • "The International Tweexcore Underground," being all about the banter between a punk and a twee fan and their respective ideologies, namedrops a few names from both groups in the bridges: Henry Rollins, Amelia Fletcher, Ian MacKaye, Calvin Johnson, Sarah Records, "whatever," and the title/concept of the song is a reference to the International Pop Underground Convention.
      • Funnily enough, the B-sides of this track's single are covers of songs by some of the named artists: "C is the Heavenly Option" by Heavenly (Amelia Fletcher) with guest vocals by Calvin Johnson, and "Police Story" by Black Flag (Henry Rollins).
    • "We Are All Accelerated Readers" name-drops Bonnie Tyler and Toni Braxton, and there's this line:
    And no more conversations about what Breakfast Club character you'd be,
    I'd be the one that dies (No-one dies) Well, then what's the point?
    • The "bake phallic cake" line from the song "Romance Is Boring" is a reference to "I Love You (But You're Boring)" by Gareth Campesinos!'s all-time favourite band, The Beautiful South (a song which they would later cover as well).
      • Another Beautiful South reference comes in the title of "Straight In At 101," referencing the song "Straight in at 37."
    • In 2013, the band started selling t-shirts with the slogan "You! Me! Danson!"
    • The ending lyric to "Heart Swells/Pacific Daylight Time," "some things are best left unsaid" is a reference to “Love Connection” by Parenthetical Girls.
    • From "Every Defeat a Divorce (Three Lions)", the line "But how could I ever refuse / I feel like I lose when I lose" is almost identical to the line from ABBA's "Waterloo," "And how could I ever refuse / I feel like I win when I lose."
    • The title of the Heat Rash zine-exclusive song "Tiptoe Through the True Bits" appears to be a reference to "Tiptoe Through The Tulips."
    • The final line to "Here's to the Fourth Time!" is "Call it 'The Time Before the Last Time!' Or 'Good News For Her Mother'!" "Good News For Her Mother!" is the title of an obscure poem by B.S. Johnson, Gareth's favorite author.
  • Silly Love Songs: While the band tend to shy away from these sort of songs, "Heart Swells/Pacific Daylight Time" is acknowledged specifically on A Good Night For A Fistfight as being "the first proper, genuine, love song we ever wrote".
    I don't want to sound trite, but you are perfect
    The way you look could seriously make nature dysmorphic
    I wish that you would kiss me 'til the point of paralysis
    The way I flail my arms in front of you it just embarrasses
  • Silly Rabbit, Romance Is for Kids!: The band often refers to this theme, especially within the aptly-named album Romance is Boring, which is a collage of mediocre relationships amidst the general ennui of a quarter-life crisis. The Title Track is an ironic anthem towards just how much the romance between the narrator and their lover sucks, both parties longing for something fulfilling but becoming too apathetic and jaded to even break up what clearly isn't working. As Gareth said in an interview:
    Nerve: Why is romance boring?
    Gareth: It's not. It's boring in the same way I say iPads are shit — because I want an iPad but can't afford one.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Gareth's dislike of folk punk singer/songwriter Frank Turner often takes a turn into this direction.
  • The Sixth Ranger: Rob. He started out as their opening act with his solo project Sparky Deathcap in 2008 and slowly worked his way to being an official member by 2010.
  • Stage Names: The shared "Campesinos" surname.
  • Stop and Go: "Death To Los Campesinos!" features one, which is often left hanging for as long as possible when played live.
  • Spoken Word in Music: Quite a few songs (particularly from earlier albums) have spoken sections.
    • "You! Me! Dancing!" has a spoken word outro.
    • "This Is How You Spell 'HAHAHA, We Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams Of A Generation of Faux-Romantics' has a spoken middle section.
    • "We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed" has a couple.
    • Rob's "Graceful, gracious companion" part from "By Your Hand" could also count.
  • Stealing from the Till: The chorus of "Death to Los Campesinos!"
    "If you catch me with my hands in the till, I promise, sugar I wasn't trying to steal..."
  • Textless Album Cover: Romance Is Boring
  • Theme Naming: The shared "Campesinos" surname.
  • Unplugged Version: in 2010 the band released the All's Well That Ends EP, containing acoustic versions of songs from Romance Is Boring.
  • Vocal Evolution: Gareth's voice has gotten noticeably deeper as time has went on. Compare the original recording of "We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives" to a more recent live version.
    • Come Sick Scenes after a 4-year gap between album releases, Gareth's voice has gotten noticeably more gentle and melodic on certain songs such as "5 Flucloxacillin" and "The Fall of Home." You'll be forgiven thinking it's actually an entirely different singer.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Gareth and Aleks, particularly on "Death to Los Campesinos!", "Drop It Doe Eyes", "My Year In Lists", "The End of the Asterisk", and "Documented Emotional Breakdown #2 (We've Got Your Back)".
    • After Aleks' departure, Kim took up the role on the older songs, as well as singing the chorus on "The Black Bird, The Dark Slope"