Following their stunning album ‘Romance Is Boring’, which is well and truly in contention for my favourite album of this year, and a couple of lineup changes, Los Campesinos! have released a short four song EP, ‘All’s Well The Ends’, that is strictly fan-only.
Firstly, a hard copy of the EP is only available in vinyl form in very limited quantities from hand-picked record stores. Secondly, the contents of the EP themselves can probably only be appreciated by a true fan of the Welsh band.
It features four reimagined tracks from the aforementioned ‘Romance Is Boring’ album. All these tracks are stripped down versions, even though lead singer/shouter Gareth has always voiced his disdain for acoustic performances.
There can be no doubt that Gareth is more at home screaming “I HOPE MY HEART GOES FIRST!” than he is reimagining tracks acoustically and with uncharacteristically soft vocals, but the sparse arrangements of ‘All’s Well That Ends’ suit the band surprisingly well.
Opening the EP is Romance Is Boring (Princess Version), with no prize for guessing what original song it is based on. This version is completely and utterly different from the original, which is a stampeding track of heavy guitar and violent vocals. I don’t like the acoustic version here much, but there is thankfully better to come.
Letters From Me To Charlotte (RSVP) is interesting, because the original track never stood out that much to me. The ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ version by comparison is sublime, based around a softly strummed guitar, and, later, a heavy focus on strings. You just feel like Gareth is wanting to let loose with his vocals, but he remained constantly restrained, which is oddly discomforting, after being so used to hearing him with no reservations whatsoever so often.
“I think we need more post-coital, and less post-rock. Feels like the buildup takes forever, but you never touch my cock”. How can you possibly not love a band that sings this? Straight In At 101/It’s Never Enough seems slightly unnatural- it is based on such a primal song, and to hear it sung with soft tones and acoustic instrumentation is anything if not unusual. There’s something to be said for this version however, if only because the contrast between the lyrics and the instrumentation is absolutely enthralling.
Los Campesinos! save the best for last however. The reimagined version of In Media Res, now called (All’s Well That Ends) In Media Res is absolutely stunning. The piano that underpins most of the track is mesmerising, especially when combined with Gareth’s surprisingly subtle vocals and a piercing violin line. When the piano riff disappears for a while, only to reappear halfway through the song as Gareth sings “I flew for seven hours, the sky didn’t once turn black”, you can’t help but get goosebumps.
Los Campesinos! write my favourite lyrics of any band in the world. Half of the fun of any Los Campesinos! release is the new lyrics, and in this way ‘All’s Well That Ends’ offers nothing to add to the catalogue of punchy one-liners and hilariously narcissistic insight of the band.
This being said, some of the (pretty much perfect) lyrics of ‘Romance Of Boring’ certainly take on new meaning when sung with a soft whisper rather than a scream. This is in particular true of (All’s Well That Ends) In Media Res, where Gareth asks:
“If you were given the option of dying painlessly in peace at forty-five
With a lover at your side, after a full and happy life
Is this something that would interest you?
Would this interest you at all?”
It’s piercing stuff, and even if there aren’t the moments of sheer chaos that we’ve grown used to in Los Campesinos! releases, there’s still something to love about any band that can sing lyrics like this with such heartfelt sincerity.
And it is this sincerity that shines throughout ‘All’s Well That Ends’. This is a band trying to find their feet again after a couple of lineup changes, as well as changes in the world since they first made their name through Myspace, which is now of course all but dead. But they still know exactly who they are and there’s still so much relevance to how they see the world.
If you’re looking for an introduction to Los Campesinos!, you should look elsewhere. But diehard fans should consider this release a gift. Of course there’s not much substance here, but then you can’t accuse the band of doing this for financial gain. It’s just an interesting other side to a band usually defined by their chaos as much as anything else. I doubt it heralds any great new direction for the band.
It’s just an aside; a tangent.
If anything, this EP proves just how versatile and talented this band is, and that their simply perfect lyrics transcend whatever surrounds them.