A new album doesn't always need a new concept. For this seven-piece Welsh indie pop outfit, that much is perfectly clear. Their fourth album in just over 3 years doesn't tread water so much as drown in a river full of absolute sameness. "Hello Sadness" could be their first album. For all their growth, it may as well be. Los Campesinos! excel at one thing: milking every single sound ever described as indie rock as much as they can get away with.
For some reason, music journalists who write about Los Campesinos! will, invariably, compare them to Scottish twee band Belle And Sebastian. "Hello Sadness" does nothing to make this comparison any more valid. In fact, Belle And Sebastian is one of the only bands that the record <i> doesn't </i> sound like.
The first song, "By Your Hand" manages to conjure up the spirit of a whole host of other bands. The keyboards sound like Tokyo Police Club or a ballsier Vampire Weekend. The constant chorus of reverb-heavy voices owe a debt to Arcade Fire and The Polyphonic Spree. Lyrically, the song is almost entirely cribbed from the Conor Oberst playbook:
"But fate's a cruel mistress, girl/ the prettiest in the world/ She dresses loosely in a bathrobe with her hair up in curls/ cause we were kissing for hours with her hands in my trousers/she could not contain herself/ suggests we go back to her house/But here it comes/this is the crux/she vomits down my rental tux."
The 'insincerity as the ultimate proof of sincerity' act can be traced all the way back to Early-90's Pavement, and that's exactly where "Baby I Got The Death Rattle" takes us. "My blisters black and touch cold/Like a cute stuffed toy bear's nose/The kind of gift I'd give you/Like a less committed Van Gogh," lead vocalist sings with an almost audible shrug.
This is not to say that the album is no fun. A lot of it really is. The title track is revelatory in the same way that early Smiths singles were. "Goodbye courage/ hello sadness again" is a simple, effective lament. The unexpected pop-shimmer on "Hate For The Island" is refreshing on an album that is otherwise full of messy fuzz.
In a world where it seems like every musical idea has already been expressed ad nauseum, maybe an effective pastiche is good enough. Don't hold your breath for more.