Jon Bergman

I've been sitting here all day tearing my hair out trying to write a column about Los Campesinos! The week I was supposed to interview the Welsh septet, a volcanic ash cloud was hanging over Europe, canceling the first week of their U.S. tour, and a friend of theirs, Devon Clifford, drummer for You Say Party! We Say Die! (they belong to the same enthusiastic punctuation society), had just dropped dead onstage. That's a fucking bad week, but it's maybe not much worse than the sort of stuff that's detailed in a lot of LC! songs—in fact, it would make for pretty good material (look for "Between an Erupting Earth and an Exploding Sky, Part 2" on 7-inch single any minute now). In any case, the interview never happened.

It's probably for the best—I can be a bit daft at conducting interviews with acts I really like—but it made last week kind of hellish. And it's hard, because Los Campesinos! are one of my favorite bands right now, and because I want to do them justice, and because I've already reviewed their most recent album, Romance Is Boring.

Los Campesinos! have grown increasingly morbid and bleak over the years, progressing from the coy, self-contained mixtape-making and cherryade stains of Sticking Fingers into Sockets to the hopeless romanticism and appealingly overblown melodrama of 2008's We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed and this year's excellent Romance Is Boring. Matching the gradual shift in lyrical sentiment, the band's sound on the new album has gone from leaning on twinkly glockenspiel melodies to favoring ragged, distorted guitars and seasick brass (keys and fiddle and hyperactive drums all carry on unharmed).

A problem with trying to whip up a review of a record on time for its release date is that you've quite likely spent only a few weeks with it, and records—more than movies, more than a lot of mediums—are meant to reveal themselves, and work their way into your brain, over time, through repeat listens. Reviewing Romance Is Boring back in January, I got hung up on how "difficult" and "busy" I thought the album was compared to the band's previous works, but that's not quite right. LC! have always been busy, turning hairpin corners from verses to choruses to breakdowns, cramming lots of ideas into each song, and they've always been difficult, buffeting plainly catchy hooks with bratty screaming and noise.

More to the point is how much more fully realized and cohesive this album seems than either the abbreviated (but incredible) Doomed or the more scattered (but outstanding) Hold On Now, Youngster. Romance works best as a start-to-finish album, resisting easy division into singles—a novel rather than a collection of short stories. Not that that makes it sound terribly exciting. But, really, it is.

They play the Showbox at the Market on Tuesday, May 4, and you'd have to be a fool or an unfeeling old crank not to go and throw yourself into the show like you were a kid again (unless you still are a kid, in which case, no need to qualify your pogoing and singing along). recommended