Few British bands walk the indie walk as devotedly as Los Campesinos!. Since releasing their debut LP Hold On Now, Youngster... in 2008, the Cardiff-bred sextet have continued to roam the music industry's less resplendent echelons without feeling the need to compromise their direction of travel for commercial success (give or take appearing on a few actual commercials).
Unsurprisingly, No Blues continues Los Campesinos!' development as reliable mainstays of the U.K.'s fragmented alternative music scene. Abounding with the usual collision of love, death, sex, and football (of the spherical shaped kind), the band's fifth studio album holds no shocks for those who have followed them from the cradle.
Yet, compared with the lovestruck refrains of 2011's Hello Sadness, these 10 cuts represent a more cultivated form of songwriting. Titles such as "A Portrait of the Trequartista as a Young Man" or "Selling Rope (Swan Dive to Estuary)" may imply an element of youthful quirk, but these are mature, fully formed compositions, built around tight structures and translucent production.
Without the usual thrust of instrument, No Blues refocuses on melody and Gareth Campesinos' vivid lyrical constructions. While his archetypal ironic wit remains, it plunges into darker depths during fizzing earworm "Avocado, Baby," where he cries "Oh it won't get any better/That doesn't mean it's gonna get any worse/You've got to draft a lifelong love letter/ Sent to the man who will be driving your hearse."
Stunning piano-stained anthem "The Time Before the Last Time," thick with splashing drum and parping brass, perhaps best symbolizes the magnificent scales Los Campesinos! could possibly reach. Yet, so strong are the band's indie roots, it's equally likely they'll never become the venerable grandstanders they should be. A pity, yes, but then again it's impossible not to love them just the way they are.
First published here for Under the Radar