For a band about whom most of the talk (pro and con) has focused on their unrelenting giddiness, Los Campesinos! have produced a debut that’s surprisingly muddled emotionally. Yes, “You! Me! Dancing!” spends six minutes or so really emphasizing to you just how good it feels to finally burst out of your self-imposed shell, but this is also a band that yells out “The opposite of true love is as follows: Reality!” That they sound equally likely to burst into laughter or tears at any moment just highlights how volatile and even moving these guys—seven youngsters that play like a band, not a collective—are.
Similarly, although the emotional and sonic tenor here seems a bit unrelenting at first, listening to Hold On Now, Youngster . . . more than once reveals that the massed vocals, clever lyrics, and satisfyingly complex hooks (often played on guitar, violin, keyboard, and glockenspiel all at once, which is such a great idea it’s surprising more people don’t try it) can be utilized to make anything from a roiling slow boil (“Knee Deep at ATP”) or a reflective plea (“We Are All Accelerated Readers”) to full-out sprints (most of the rest). I’m not sure why it’d be a minus that they manage to be so enthusiastic about both their joy and their pain (and even their youthful uncertainty), but by the time traditional show-closer “Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks” roars to a halt, the album title is clearly the slyest joke they’ve managed yet. There’ll be time for restraint later, if at all. Right now, Los Campesinos! have too much to say, and care too much about saying it to hold back. It’s nice to have some fizz and fist-pumping—not to mention hooks—back in the mix.
Los Campesinos! play Maxwell’s in Brooklyn May 14, the Music Hall of Williamsburg May 15, and Bowery Ballroom May 19.