The Welsh seven-piece’s sixth album, Sick Scenes, very much represents a welcomed shot of musical maturity for the former darlings of the twee-pop boom, now turned raw-nerved indie-rock raconteurs. As is always the case with Los Campesinos, it’s an energetic, competently inelegant and well-crafted affair smattered with spots of genuine passion as Gareth David spits his playful and bare-souled lyricism in his inimitable style.
As the band leaves their idealist 20s behind, Sick Scenes works as a meditation on the group’s place in the indie-rock plethora and what exactly that means, if, indeed, it means anything at all. The album treads the familiar ground of addressing the pursuit of this oh so unstable profession in one’s latter years, without the usual clichés and self-serving platitudes which so burgeon the style. “Depression is a young man’s game”, suggests David in an unusually wistful but refreshing mature ode to prescription drugs in ‘5 Floxacillin’, signalling a different direction for a band which, to this point, have been underpinned by roaring energy and catchy choruses.
From this point, the album slows in comparison to its familiarly energetic openers ‘Renato Della’Ara’, ‘Sad Suppers’ and ‘I Broke up in Amarante’. It’s not entirely unwelcomed: the band have wisely grown up however, they have retained their angry, raw energy in the process. In songs such as ‘A Litany/Heart Swells’ and ‘Hung Empty’, this anger takes the form of a world-weariness at being the butt of life’s joke as opposed to an anger that the joke has been played in the first place. It’s a welcome change for the band and one which feels, not only appropriate, but essential to retaining their relevance in a scene plagued by its stubbornness towards change.
Sick Scenes never quite reaches the heights of 2011’s seminal Hello Sadness but it represents an album of skilled, mature and comparatively reserved songs which signal a welcome trajectory for these indie-rock stalwarts.