Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster (2008)

4.0 ★/8.0 - 8.9

With Hold On Now, Youngster, I will never judge a book by it's cover again. Los Campesinos! is a band that's made themselves known through Myspace. They're a band that, when described, sounds completely void of anything new or original. They're a band who, being on the same label as Stars and Broken Social Scene, have a lot to live up to, and at the offset, very little suggests that they can. And yet somehow, they succeed where so many other generic, quirky , "up-and-coming" indie rock bands fail. Or maybe their followers are just too busy dancing their asses off to see otherwise.

Hold On Now, Youngster mostly stays in one mode: spastic, wired and zany. One can imagine the band composed of a bunch of melodramatic 9 year olds, stuffed with a day's worth of sugar and let loose. Occasionally, a J Mascis-esque guitar lead will surface, but otherwise, sounds buzz and bounce off the walls in a speed-induced rush, supporting the anything-goes, shout-as-much-as-you-can-NOW vocals (What do you expect from a band with a song titled "You!Me!Dancing!"). But wedged between lightning charged keyboards and glockenspiels, is a startlingly sincere and poetic core. As a matter of fact, you can approach the album as a touching and emotional masterpiece just as much as you can approach it as a fun joyride. "My Year In Lists" is a 2 minute lesson in advanced poetry that every Dashboard Confessional in the world would benefit from. It's companion piece, "Knee Deep In ATP" gets a little sappy, but makes up for it with brilliant structure that switches from high-octane spazz-pop to tenderly epic and back again. And speaking of tender epics, the closer, "The Year Punk Rock Broke My Heart" pulls a move that's typical of an Arts & Crafts band and builds beautifully driving, hair-standing tension for 3 minutes, that, every single time it's played, hits just as hard as the first time you heard it.

I've developed an extremely close relationship to Hold On Now Youngster, and I'm sure I won't be the last person to do so.. Its nearly limitless youthful exuberance and affecting nostalgia means it's an album made to be loved and cherished. In The Aeroplane Over The Sea comes to mind, and not just because we've reached a 10 year anniversary for the cult classic (nor is it because the whole album is also done in a single key). It's just the intimacy I feel listening to it. Now, I'm not suggesting that it has even half the depth of that masterpiece (well, maybe at least half), but it is capable of affecting someone in the same way. Now, I'm not suggesting that it has even half the depth of that masterpiece, but it's certainly capable of affecting someone in the same way. When I first obsessed over In The Aeroplane in my teenage years, it was a snapshot of my childhood. Now, a few years later, Hold On Now Youngster takes me back to high school - the haze of discovering Pavement and Sonic Youth, dancing alone in my room, racing shopping carts and blowing fireworks to escape the seemingly all-enveloping confusion of puberty, angst and drama.

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