‘Hello Sadness’ does not wallow

By: Michael Hernandez/Columnist

You could not find an odder juxtaposition of music and lyrics than with Los Campesinos. On first listen, they have what sounds to be upbeat, flowery arrangements that go along energetically without hiccups, but lead singer Gareth Campesinos’ personal lyrics offer depth and personal introspection that most bands struggle for.

Michael Hernandez / Columnist

That is what makes “Hello Sadness” another solid album in Los Campesinos’ catalog; it is an album that still invigorates because of the jubilant pop-punk style. But ultimately, it is a cathartic album that follows the emotions of breakups.

The near autobiographical album deals with the resonating pain of breakup. Campesinos starts off the story of heartache with the first track, “By Your Hand,” which has that bouncy snap that is characteristic of Los Campesinos.

But with grief-inducing lyrics — “By your hand is the only end I foresee/I have been dreaming/you’ve been dreaming about me” — the track is anything but bouncy. It is sung in declaration, as if this infinite sadness is something to exclaim about.

It works here, as the track hearkens back to a time when pop-punk dealt with existential relationship dilemmas without all the self-pity. It is honest storytelling from someone that damn near sounds excited singing about his suffering, as opposed to wallowing. He chronicles his experiences with his former love, from detailing how “it’s a good night/for a fist fight” to when “she vomits down my rental tux.”

It implants these images in the listeners’ minds as to how things went along in his tale of despair — not just some hypothetical sadness. The second track, “Songs About Your Girlfriend,” stands out from the rest, not just because it is so damn catchy with its harmonizing choir vocals and chugging guitar riffs that never let up, but because Campesinos is doing exactly what the title infers: singing about your girlfriend. It is bitter, aggressive and distant all at once, even though he “made her purr like a cat, she said I never made her smile like that.”

This is a facet of breakup songs that is not often discussed: the rebound, and how one is so damaged from a past relationship that they go and ruin someone else’s, only for it to be a half-empty situation. It explodes, just like a hard breakup should.

“Hello Sadness” walks that blurry line of being deep to being emo, but even low-key songs like “Every Defeat a Divorce” and “To Tundra” show that Los Campesinos can craft a solemn song just like they can craft a peppy one without feeling they are sacrificing their sound. If anything, the subject matter makes their music more profound, diverse and mature, and it is a welcomed shift that still sees the band going for larger impacts than just quirky, fun rock. They can do both now.

A lot of comparisons to other bands will develop from this album — Campesinos’ shaky voice can mirror the likeness of a young Robert Smith, and the group’s musical output has influences of Spoon and Dinosaur Jr. — but “Hello Sadness” is entirely Los Campesinos. It is a purely sincere album, and shows that even through one person’s loss, there is much gained for the listeners through the music.

Listen to DJ Mike Manchild’s show Radiophobia on Thursdays at 4 p.m. on Radiate FM 95.3 Miami, 96.9 North Miami, and 88.1 Homestead.

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