Hello Sadness is an album title that is equally applicable to any of Los Campesinos!’s past releases. It’s a given that on every album Gareth and co. are going to be talking about depressing topics and tackling them head on. However, this album seems to be the one for which the title is least appropriate – on Hello Sadness we’re dealing with much more than mere sadness. From the opening line Gareth Campesinos! is forecasting the method of his own death, although the weight of the line is easily lost in the outright infectiousness of the typically bouncy melody. Hello Sadness is an album of two halves, in which the first embraces the band’s pop leanings, chock full of sprightly melodies and irrepressible choruses, while the second seems to give in to the darkness that lurks throughout the record, and embraces it by offering up some of the most melodramatic songs Los Campesinos! have recorded to date.
Four albums into their career you might think that Gareth would be running out of ways to originally express jealousy or detail a breakup, but if Hello Sadness proves anything, it’s that his lyrical well is far from dry. Sometimes he does it simply; sure he’s written plenty of songs about girls, but here he uses those songs to fuel “Songs About Your Girlfriend,” which contains some of his most spiteful lyrics to date (“your friends agree on her soft spot for me / I’ll have my hot hands over her soft spots soon you will see”), but when served up on a plate as emphatic as that provided here, it’s easy to get in our protagonist’s corner despite his disagreeable demeanor. Both “Hello Sadness” and “Life Is A Long Time” could easily be dismissed as “emo” when attention is only paid to the typically catchy choruses (which is extremely easy to do when they’re as packed with fitful energy as these), but further parsing of the verses’ lyrics reveal much greater depth. The lyrics of “Life Is A Long Time” in particular deserve close inspection as they may be Gareth’s most poetic to date, painting a couple’s two bodies as corresponding landscapes that have natural reactions to the arguments that go on between them.
The album takes a turn for the morbid at the halfway point, and every song from there on in concerns death in some degree. We get tales of the deaths of close friends (“Hate For The Island,” “To Tundra”), and his own death by violent dismemberment by physical representations of inner demons (“The Blackbird, The Dark Slope”). “Baby I Got The Death Rattle” at first seems like the most harrowing of all, but further inspection reveals the song to be a tongue-in-cheek skeezy story to re-bed an ex-lover, and is filled with laugh out loud lines like “Not a headstone, but a headboard is where I want to be mourned.” This gloomy second half opens up and reveals its myriad qualities on multiple plays, but despite this prolonged darkened state of mind, never do Los Campesinos! quite create a mood or tell an affecting story as convincingly as they did on Romance Is Boring’s tail end. This isn’t a criticism, just a slight disappointment in light of the quality of the previous outing.
Hello Sadness has five songs fewer than their previous album, but the unbridled emotions that are allowed to manifest more on this album than any previous mean that it goes off in incalculable different ways and makes it the harder to pin down. Even outside the death-obsessed songs of the latter half, we have in “Three Lions (Every Defeat A Divorce)” what must be the most theatrical song ever written about sport (at least ostensibly). This may be hard to swallow for newcomers or those fans who like them purely for their easy digestibility. It seems that Hello Sadness is an album for the true fans, from the songs about football to “Light Leaves Dark Sees, Part 2” – a song that saw its first part released exclusively to those who subscribe to their fanzine Heat Rash. Ultimately, this is what your level of enjoyment of Hello Sadness will come down to; how much of a fan you were before going into it.
Plugging away since 1999, The National finally hit mainstream success with the release of their 2010 album High Violet. Of course, this entailed their first world tour, but in the new documentary Mistaken For Strangers, it’s only the backdrop for the relationship between lead singer Matt Berninger and his younger brother Tom, who had no idea that these short videos he was shooting would turn into a public document of their troubled, if still loving brotherhood.
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