Sick Scenes, the sixth Los Campesinos! record and their first since 2013’s excellent No Blues, gives the impression that they've been itching to come back. Recorded in Fridao, Portugal during England’s disastrous Euro 2016 campaign, Sick Scenes sees LC! offering up a liberating set of songs about odious city hipsters, youthful nostalgia and future anxiety, wrapped up in the seven-piece’s usual glorious flurry of chipper riffs and witty lyricisms.
Witnessing others’ triumph in the wake of your own abject failure is an embarassing context for writing a record, but also a historically great motivator for lead vocalist Gareth David, who finds catharsis here. When rumbling opener Renato Dall’Ara (2008) lands with its infectious vocal hook and a withering takedown of a local scenester who’s ‘a part-time grass but a full-time asshole’, it’s a joyous return for LC! and a clear release of pent-up frustration. That emotional urgency sticks throughout Sick Scenes, never more than in the double-time pace of I Broke Up in Amarante and the album’s poignant centrepiece The Fall of Home, a twinkling acoustic song lamenting closing pubs and newfound responsibility which will appeal to 20/30-somethings everywhere.
LC!’s enduring strength is that no matter how maudlin their subject matter (see: 5 Flucloxacillin), they never fail to be self-deprecating and spirited, also finding room for experimentation such as For Whom The Belly Tolls’ ghostly waltz during the bridge. A more fraught record than No Blues, Sick Scenes is a testament to coming to terms with adulthood and the power of friends to keep you going.
Listen to: Renato Dall’Ara, The Fall of Home, 5 Flucloxacillin