By Los Campesinos!
There's a point in the aftermath of a break-up when you think you could take on the world. You're a new man/woman. Change of clothes? New haircut? May as well hit up the gym whilst you're at it - you're back on the market. The possibilities are endless. With no ties there is nothing holding you back. But those feelings are all too fleeting. All it takes is a moment - a flicker. A quick thought back to your ex. You're done for. The feeling of sick builds in the pit of your stomach and all that belief - all of that focus you put into getting over that someone and starting a new life - is undone. Because in reality, deep down, you still miss that person terribly, and you still pine for what you had. You know it, your friends know it, your ex probably still knows it. "Goodbye courage/ Hello sadness again" is how Los Campesinos! eloquently put it, and so we're up and running with the bleakest, most despairing break-up album of the year.
LC! aren't exactly new to the concept of heartbreak - their three previous albums are all brilliant, compact records bursting with lovelorn teenage-angst - but lead singer Gareth has never sounded this crestfallen before. The album was apparently written less than two weeks after he had split with his girlfriend at the time - and boy does it show. At times the songs on this album are almost painful to listen to; it feels voyeuristic. What we're hearing is one man's complete turmoil over the end of his relationship. But there's no self-pity or indulgence here. Luckily the songs are saved from that by Gareth's usual acerbic wit and self-deprecation.
A good example of that is the album opener and first single 'By Your Hand'. It's utterly joyous and the one song that wouldn't have any problems fitting in neatly on any of their other albums. Hand-claps, a Casio-like keyboard undercurrent and the chanted chorus of "By your hand is the only end I foresee/ I have been dreaming you've been dreaming about me." It's a tale of meeting a girl and all the young lust that comes with it. But things don't exactly go to plan - obviously - exemplified by the killer line "Here it comes/ This is the crux/ She vomits down my rental tux." Even by LC! standards, it's a giddy piece of pure pop, and arguably their finest single to date.
So things do actually start off bright enough. Unfortunately - for Gareth at least - the fun doesn't last. The aforementioned title track is full of the usual wonderful imagery and a complex metaphor or two. But we're treading dark waters here. "It's only hope that springs eternal/ And that's the reason why/ This dripping from my broken heart/ Is never running dry." goes the hook. Surrounding the raw lyrics is a surging, string-assisted arrangement, which builds and builds until around the 2.20 mark when the harmonies kick in and whole thing just bursts wide open into the heavens. It is, quite frankly, a fucking brilliant moment in an album full of them.
The curveball of the collection is the record's centrepiece 'Every Defeat A Divorce (Three Lions)'. It would seem the national football team have caused Gareth just as much heartache as his female liaisons have. Though I'm slightly more ambivalent to England and their lack of success than Gareth obviously is, the picture he paints will have you wallowing in equal measure the next time you see them play. "Every defeat a divorce/ Although I look surprised/ It's par for the course I guess." He's devastated, of course, but he later adds "But how could I ever refuse." Football - any sport - like love, is a drug. We all tell ourselves that this time it will be better. We meet a new person, the rush starts all over again, and it feels amazing. But in the back of your mind there's that niggle. The worry that things won't work out and you'll end up back at square one. And so the heartache continues.
None more so than on the album's final track 'Light Leaves, Dark Sees pt. II'. It's a slow waltz. A solemn, sobering song - and if you weren't pained by the general misery up until this point, you sure as hell will be after hearing this. It's a call and repeat exercise between Gareth and the rest of the band. If you didn't think "When the light leaves/ Then the dark sees.", was a depressing enough line to begin with, they're gonna make damn sure it hits you second time around. In spite of everything else though, it's a thing of beauty, this song. It shows a grown-up sounding Los Campesinos! and an exciting sign of potential things to come
And I guess that's what Hello Sadness represents as a whole. It's a bleak document of a time in a particular young man's life, but more than that, it's a pointer to a more mature and accomplished Los Campesinos!. The sound of a band breaking free from their cult status tag to possibly something far more important.