Although the first three Los Campesinos! albums have been full of bright, up-tempo beats, their lyrics have always skewed dark. There’s been talk of vomit in gullets, “the most heart-wrenching break-ups of all time,” sad sex, eating disorders, and “destroying the hopes and dreams of a generation of faux-romantics.” So with Hello Sadness, the Campesinos! clan isn’t introducing depression. Far from it. Rather, as frontman Gareth Campesinos! makes clear on the title track, it’s time to say, “hello sadness, again.”
It’s also time to say hello again to the overwhelming positive energy that has defined earlier Los Campesinos! albums. “Life Is a Long Time” — with chorus, “It starts pretty rough / And ends up even worse / And what goes on in between / I try to keep it out of my thoughts” — features rapid, giddy hand-clapping. The whole crew sounds downright exuberant as Gareth admits, “Although I always made her purr like a cat / She said I never made her smile like that” on “Songs About Your Girlfriend.” Even the morosely-titled “Baby I Got the Death Rattle” is relatively sunny.
But Hello Sadness doesn’t feel derivative of prior releases, largely because the Campesinos! allow themselves to wallow in their sadness just a little more than they have before. The whole album isn’t about juxtaposing peppy music with depressing verses; the group actually slows down on three entire tracks: “Hate For the Island,” “To Tundra,” and “Light Leaves, Dark Sees Pt 2.” It’s a side of the band that has only been hinted at before — most notably with “The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future,” a stand-out track from its last album, Romance is Boring — and it’s a satisfying shift.
Los Campesinos! fans have to be some of the most impatient out there. After all, the group released its first three albums in a span of less than two years. In comparison, the 22-month wait for Hello Sadness seems like a veritable lifetime. But with the familiar bounce and sardonic lyrics — and the development of the band’s capabilities to produce tamer, deeper, more mellow fare — it’s been worth the wait.