Hold On Now, Youngster…
As anyone who ever listens to me yell about music knows, they just don’t make good pop music like they used to. The 90s were effectively the last good decade for upbeat music, and though we have bands now like Vampire Weekend, The Apples in Stereo, and The Ditty Bops, music just doesn’t give me a shit-eating grin like it used to. You know the grin: when you wake up on Christmas morning and it’s snowing, and you swear that anyone looking at you right then could tell you if you needed to brush your back teeth better.
What a surprise it was, to me, when Now Hold On, Youngster… leaked in January. I had heard buzz about Los Campesinos! from the review site Drowned in Sound, but I had never looked for them. So, when I came across the leak of their debut record, I entered it into rotation. From the starting chords of the first track, “Death To Los Campesinos!”, I was grinning and moving around, which hadn’t happened in far, far too long.
As the album progresses on, you find more than just things to grin about, though there are plenty of things like that. The songs are rarely sung by a single person, and when they aren’t, there’s still chanting from the background (in the case of “Knee Deep At ATP” and “You! Me! Dancing!”). Frontman Gareth Campesinos! has an absurd singing voice, and doesn’t seem to care much because, to me, he sounds like he’s having the time of his life singing the songs that he’s singing.
The better part of the album comes from the tongue-in-cheek lyrics. From lines about K Records shirts at ATP (“Though underexposed, I could see from the quality his K Records tee-shirt and you holding his hand” – “Knee Deep At ATP”) to lyrics like “I’ll swap the bleeding for a bumping sensation/I’ll be ctrl-alt-deleting your face with no reservations” (“Death To Los Campesinos!”), it’s hard not to get caught on the catchy lyricism of these songs. Indeed, the best lyric comes from “We Are All Accelerated Readers”, where Gareth and Aleksandra Campesinos! converse on a conversation on which Breakfast Club character they’d be. “I’d be the one that dies,” sings Gareth, garnering the response, “No one dies,” from Aleksandra. “Well then, what’s the point?” quips Gareth in response.
The arrangement here is slightly lo-fi, but at the same time fairly grand. The aforementioned “Knee Deep At ATP” starts with a wonderfully catchy guitar section, but soon breaks, and is replaced with light guitar, drum, and the very best bit: a string section. This continues on, but is eventually swallowed up by the sea when the final part of the song hits: “They said “it’s not what you like, it’s what you’re like as a person”, Well, I need new hobbies, that’s one thing for certain.”
Hopefully, when this record is released stateside, it will gain a lot more praise, and people will actually talk about it, with its witty lyricism (which I can barely speak enough about) and amazingly catchy instrumental arrangement, it would be wonderful for people to talk about really, truly high-quality pop music again.