Three years ago the idea of an acoustic record from Los Campesinos! wouldn’t sit easy, perhaps conjuring awkward thoughts of an acoustic ‘exclusive’ delivered from hay bales backstage at Glastonbury, possibly with Jo Whiley drooling on from the wings. But rather than jar the senses, the tongue in cheek proclamation of tweexcore is revealed as a kop out as Los Campesinos! reach a sensuous compromise between Xiu Xiu and the warped pop sensibilities of Parenthetical Girls.
Underlying everything the band have released is a sense of longing, though it’s probably best to describe it as wistfulness rather than overt loss. Lyrically, Gareth's wry humour builds around series of inside jokes.
Yet what came on their second (alright, third) full length was a much darker feel; ok, this Romance is Boring wasn't exactly Big Star's Third, but it was a stark contrast to the happy go lucky dynamic of 2008's sublime Hold On Now, Youngster!
The reworked four tracks that comprise All’s Well That Ends are taken from the jarringly brilliance of Romance is Boring and it’s fitting that the title track opens proceedings here.
The ragged pace of the original version is swapped for a loping piano line, underlining the vulnerability in a vocal that is usually more cocksure than fragile. Here, detractors would argue Los Campesinos! are shown as chancers – the singer can’t sing, his lyrics are repetitive. But the stripped back aesthetic is merely an extension of the virtues they extol, its simplicity is charming and the vulnerability only reiterates the contrast between fragility and juvenility.
Perhaps the stand out here is ‘Letters From Me to Charlotte (RSVP)’. Kim Campesinos makes her recorded debut and where the Aleks/Gareth partnership served to create a high contrast pairing, the dynamic here is more subtle, Kim’s vocals are lower and richer than Aleks’. By the time Gareth cuts in at the second verse, the track has managed to become one of the strongest in LC!s oeuvre. While the chorus always was on the epic side, here there is a powerful sense of regret underpinning the sound.
‘Straight in at 101/It's Never Enough’ is the weak link here. The album version was fun, but without the driving percussion pushing the joyous juvenility of the main riff, it falls flat. If there must be a token ‘acoustic version’ here, then this is it. Rather than re-craft the song, it’s just a matter of replicating what was already there.
‘(All's Well that Ends) In Media Res’ redeems the clumsiness of its studio counterpart. Here the strings are given a greater prominence as synths disappear leaving a lighter, less clunky track. It’s not as if it’s transformed into the band's most eloquent passage, but it does bring a certain something out of the track.
All’s Well That Ends is a record that really sets out Los Campesinos! stall as a serious band. Here the band prove there’s more to their records than distorted riffs and bellowed choruses.
7Will Metcalfe's Score