Titus Andronicus and Los Campesinos!, Paradise Rock Club, February 13, 2009
BEAUTIFUL AND DOOMED: But at the Paradise, Los Campesinos! were also a bit long-winded.
In an age of polarizing bands, Welsh septet Los Campesinos! are among the . . . polarizing-est. Some people find their energetic pop to be fun and infectious. Others find their naked displays of emotions grating and annoying.
I didn't really have much of an opinion — though I'm not crazy about the name or the way they've all adopted it as their stage names à la the Ramones. I was much more interested in seeing Titus Andronicus, a phenomenal band from New Jersey who play a hyper-intellectual version of the lo-fi punk that's been so popular these past few years. And they absolutely delivered, with a set that captured the raw intensity of their debut, The Airing of Grievances. Alongside songs whose titles sound as if they had been culled from the notebook of a first-year liberal-arts generalist ("Joset of Nazareth's Blues," "Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ"), they offered suitably raucous takes on Bruce Springsteen's "Badlands" and the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner" — the latter of which they anointed as the best song ever to come out of Boston.
For the first half or so of LC!'s set, the appeal was apparent. As they ripped through one catchy, two-minute ditty after another (from their 2008 releases, Hold On Now, Youngster and We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed) while bouncing around the stage, it seemed there really wasn't much difference between these guys and most indie-punk bands, other than maybe the use of glockenspiel. Most of the more embarrassingly drippy lyrics were tough to understand because of lead singer Gareth Campesinos's thick Welsh accent, though that didn't stop the (mostly younger-looking) crowd from pointing fingers along with both him and co-vocalist/keyboardist (sigh) Aleksandra Campesinos. I'm not sure how a line like "Sarah Records never meant anything to me" became an anthemic rallying point, but whatever works, I guess.
Gareth pointed out at one point that the show had broken their "record for most amount of songs." Whether or not that count was accurate, it certainly seemed they were playing for a long time —and after a while it started to drag. Every song sprang from the same pattern of screaming and spoken-word, and Gareth's emoting slid from intriguing sincerity to hissy fit over the course of the evening. By the time he and Aleksandra climbed up on their monitors to sing "We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed," it all felt like a bit much. Toward the end, a lone voice of dissent rose from the crowd, in what might have been the most sincere expression of the night: "Play the Smiths!"
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