Los Campesinos!
Romance Is Boring
(Arts & Crafts)

If it weren't terribly gauche to post song lyrics as status updates, the new album from Los Campesinos!, Romance Is Boring, could have me totally covered for the better part of 2010. Romance is the Welsh septet's third album of wonderfully melodramatic, breakup-obsessed brat rock, and like its predecessors, it's scrawled to the marble-­notebook margins with lyrical gold (if there were room, I'd excerpt the whole thing right here). It's also their most difficult album yet.

That's because nothing here is quite as immediately engaging as previous standouts such as "You! Me! Dancing!" or "We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed." Instead, Romance is a super-dense album of pop songs as puzzle pieces—any given part may be riddled with hooks and choruses, but everything sounds best (and makes the most sense) surrounded by everything else.

Musically, Romance isn't a big departure from their well-established tweecore sound. The drums are still hyperkinetic and dexterous; the guitars still duel and dive-bomb and squeal with just the right amount of discord; the sharp arrangements of violin, keyboard, and fidgety, tinkling glockenspiel are still dizzy; Gareth Campesinos!'s perfectly histrionic howling is still balanced by (now amicably replaced member) Aleks Campesinos!'s close-quartered cooing. The album features discreet contributions from the Dead Science's Jherek Bischoff, Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart, and Parenthetical Girls' Zac Pennington, and the band has added some ebullient bursts of brass.

What's most notable, though, is just how much is going on in these songs. It'd be impossible to note every great moment here, but a few: the madly careening tear of "There Are Listed Buildings"; the big, scathing finish of the title track ("We are two ships that pass in the night..."); the moment when "We've Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)" breaks from its initial off-­kilter rhythm into a full-bore charge; the almost–Built to Spill guitar weeping that closes "Who Fell Asleep In"; the delirious hand-clapping of "Straight in at 101" (with its Joan of Arc–endebted post-coitus/post-rock joke); the bitter witticisms and achingly sincere chorus of "I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed. Just So You Know"; the distant, windy refrain of "This will never be the same" on "A Heat Rash in the Shape of the Show Me State; Or, Letters from Me to Charlotte"; everything about the album's despondent centerpiece "The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future"; the group-shout of "Can we all please just calm the fuck down" that opens "This Is a Flag. There Is No Wind."

Romance is difficult, overwhelming, and thrilling—but it's hardly boring. recommended