Los Campesinos! have always been a band who are keenly aware of pop history.
The Welsh outfit's work is replete with references, quotes, winks and nudges aimed at pop hits of the past, with their songs fusing an emotional sensibility with whatever happens to be soundtracking it at the time.
New album 'No Blues' is a case in point. Described by the band as "bloodied, but grinning through broken teeth" it's another wry, witty and wholly rewarding Los Campesinos! full length.
Out on October 28th via Turnstile, Clash decided to toast its arrival by placing Gareth Campesinos! in the critical hot seat. Charged with reviewing this week's singles, the frontman - loveable chap that he is - responded in record time.
And here they are...
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James Blunt - Bonfire Heart
In 2008 our band was invited by James Blunt to support him on tour. £50 a night, including playing places like the O2 arena. We were unable to do it because we were already due to be on tour with US DIY punks No Age. This was certainly a sliding doors moment for both us and James, and I'm certain if we'd hit the road together on those winter months, we'd have lit the spark in his bonfire heart years earlier, and he'd have become the new Scott Walker by now. Guy Fawkes cash-in timing? Harmless, this.
Dawes - Most People
I've got to be careful here. This is definitely the sort of band that I'll say something snidey about and then next Summer we'll be back stage at a festival (they'll be playing a bigger stage than us) and we'll be stood next to eachother in the catering queue and I'll know I've said mean things about them, and they'll not know "who I am" and small talk will be really awkward. I like that harmonic "brrrrring" thing on the guitar, people'll sing along to that, it'll be great fun. That's about it really.
Eminem - Berzerk
Eminem is 40 years old. Imagine your parents saying the word "berzerk". It'd be in the context of somebody at work upsetting someone else and "oh, Jonathan went BERZERK, it was very awkward". Its's the year 2013 and Eminem is firing shots at Kevin Federline. In the chorus of a song. Fair enough you get to the third verse and have a line to fill, get your K-Fed diss in, but not in the CHORUS of your comeback single, old man. This might work as a Limp Bizkit song.
John Newman - Cheating
This is basically 'Forget You' by Cee-Lo Green for 2013, I think. Moloko strings, italo piano, horn stabs and a gospel choir are all in there and it sounds nice enough. It kind of feels like Plan B buying a suit was Year Zero for a lot of UK pop-music right now, doesn't it? This is the fella that does vocals on some of those Rudimental tracks, but this is the track his grandparents would choose to play to their mates when showing their talented young Johnny off.
The Saturdays - Disco Love
This is more like it, I've just listened through these other songs and it's been a bit of a struggle, if I'm being honest, but this is a pop smash and I'll settle for nothing less. All "baby baby baby"s and dusting off the pop "hey-ey-ey"s that have been in storage since B*Witched's "C'est La Vie", while constantly feeling like it could segue into Whitney's 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody" at any moment. Electronic drums and funk guitar, back the slightly cloying 90s nostalgia-fest, but this is an improvement on the template so I ain't complaining.
I'm a big fan of Jon Hopkins' work. This track pushes Khan (of Bat For Lashes) to the forefront a little more than Hopkins, it must be said, but the two combine to undeniably beautiful effect on this slow burner. Hopkins' pulsing bass drives the track to a gorgeous, if subtle, climax as ethereal as any of Liz Fraser's finest moments.
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'No Blues' is set to be released on October 28th.